Postoperative Nursing Interventions for General Surgery Patients

Before you are transferred back into your hospital room following your general surgery, you will need to spend some time in the post-anesthesia care unit. Also called the PACU and the recovery room, it is there where the perioperative nurses will monitor your condition until you are stable enough to return to your room.

Depending upon your postoperative medical condition, you will either return to your hospital room on the general medical-surgical floor, or you will be transferred to the intensive care unit if you require close monitoring or if you require complex treatments such as mechanical ventilation. Here are some postoperative nursing interventions you may receive while you are recovering from general surgery.

Pulse Oximetry Monitoring

Your blood oxygen saturation rate will be monitored by the nurses while you are in the post-anesthesia care unit. The pulse oximeter is a small device that clips onto your finger. If your oxygen saturation rate becomes lower than normal, the nurse will adjust the flow of your oxygen to help prevent a condition known as hypoxia.

While abnormally low readings may indicate that you are not getting enough oxygen to your brain, other reasons for a low pulse oximetry reading may simply be the result of postoperative shivering after general anesthesia. The nurse will also make sure that the finger probe of the oximeter is clean because dirt or dried blood on the probe may cause abnormal readings. The nurse will also periodically reposition the oximeter probe to prevent finger irritation. 

Fluid Monitoring

While in the recovery room, your fluids will be strictly monitored to ensure that you have proper fluid balance. The nurse will monitor your intake and output, also known as "A&O." Your fluid intake includes your intravenous fluids and oral intake, however, you will not have any oral intake in the recovery room.

If you are receiving a blood transfusion, the blood may also be counted as fluid intake. Fluid output includes the urinary output from your bladder that the nurse will measure from the collection bag that is attached to your indwelling urinary catheter. In addition, if vomiting or diarrhea occurs in the recovery room, the nurse will estimate the fluid loss from the gastric and intestinal contents. 

If you are anticipating an upcoming general surgery procedure, talk to your surgeon about what you should expect while you recover. Well-informed patients may be less likely to develop anxiety during their recovery periods when they know what to expect in advance.