POSTOPERATIVE CARE OF THE SURGICAL PATIENT
Section I. INTRODUCTION
Many of the aspects of nursing care during the recovery from the initial effects of
anesthesia are carried over into the postoperative phase. In postoperative nursing, the
helping and caring aspects of nursing become dramatically clear. The patient
recovering from spinal anesthesia is unable to turn himself, so the nurse turns him
frequently. The unconscious patient is unable to control the secretions trickling down
his throat, so the nurse controls them by positioning and by suctioning. In helping the
patient, the nurse is guided by the doctor's orders for postoperative treatment and
therapy. However, the helping aspect of nursing is evident even as the nurse bathes
perspiration from the patient's forehead or adjusts the light so that it does not shine
directly in his eyes. The helplessness of the postoperative patient makes it essential
that practical nurses have the skills and knowledge to help maintain the life processes,
provide safety and comfort, and prevent complications. Postoperative care mainly takes
place in the patient's room in the hospital.
TERMS AND DEFINITIONS
Although only a few terms and definitions are listed below, more terms and
definitions will be dispersed throughout the lesson.
Atelectasis. Collapse of the lungs.
Distention. The state of being stretched out or bloated, as the abdominal
cavity may be with gas or fluid.
Exudate. Fluid, usually containing pus, bacteria, or dead cells.
Flatus. Digestive tract gas that is expelled rectally (expelling gas orally is
called burping or eructating).
Nasogastric Tube. A rubber or plastic tube that is inserted through the
nose (naso) and extending into the stomach (gastric).
Peristalsis. The involuntary, wavelike motion of the digestive tract that
moves food through the alimentary canal.