The general guidelines below are for patients who have had major abdominal surgery. Each and every patient responds differently to the surgery. If you have any questions, contact our office and ask to talk to the nurse.

  • Dr. Sanford’s Office: 314-273-2720
  • Dr. Doyle’s Office: 314-362-2880
  • Dr. Fields’ Office: 314-286-1694

For after-hour concerns, contact the physician on-call at 314-362-1242.

Activity Level

Many patients report feeling very tired following their surgery. You may find even simple tasks exhausting. Asking someone to assist with errands, like grocery shopping, is advisable for the first month. You are encouraged to remain active upon returning home. Avoid staying in bed or in a chair all day as that will inhibit recovery. You should walk frequently and work up to 30 minutes of continuous activity several times a day. Climbing stairs is allowed. Depending on the extent of your surgery and hospitalization, you may require assistance from family and friends until you are able to fully resume your normal activities. You may also receive home health nursing visits should you need them. Home health care and specific post operative activity instructions will be discussed during your hospitalization. Lifting should be limited to no more than the weight equivalent to 1 gallon of milk until your first post-operative appointment with the surgeon.


You should ask the doctor or nurse for showering instructions.

No bathing, swimming and hot tubs/Jacuzzi or spa use for 4 weeks after surgery. Showering is allowed, unless otherwise instructed not to at discharge.


You should not drive until you are completely off pain medication and you feel that you can respond to emergency situations appropriately.

Sexual Activity

You may resume sexual activity, unless instructed otherwise by your physician.


You may find that you don’t have much of an appetite following your surgery. Some people have trouble tolerating certain foods and their portion size may need to be adjusted. This is all normal and part of the recovering process. Foods may be tolerated this week and not the next or vice-versa. It is important to go slow and only eat what you can tolerate. If it is difficult for you to eat solid foods, you should sip on a nutritional supplement. There are many supplements available. Some common names are Ensure, Ensure Clear, Boost, Glucerna, Carnation Essentials, Odwalla, Kefir. Look for supplements that are low in sugar and high in protein. You should aim for 2-3 per day if you are not eating much solid food otherwise.

It is most important during this time to drink plenty of liquids. If you cannot tolerate a liquid diet, please call the office.


Upon discharge you will be given further instructions regarding medication. Always call the office if you have questions about your medications.


You should expect to return home with your staples intact.

  • Keep incision clean and dry without bandages covering.
  • Do not apply ointments or creams to incision, unless advised by the physician.
  • It is normal to feel a firm area underneath the incision known as the “healing ridge.” This will disappear within the next few months.
  • It is normal to notice slight redness around the staples.
  • You should avoid direct sunlight to the incision area.
  • A small amount of clear or light red drainage from the incision may be normal. If you are soaking through more than three dry dressings per day, please contact our office.


You may be discharged with a surgical drain. It is important that you keep it securely attached at all times. You will be instructed in how to care for your drain before discharge.

Bowel Movement

Due to change in diet, pain medication and a decreased activity level, it is common for constipation to become a problem following the surgery. If you are uncomfortable and have not had a bowel movement within 24 or 48 hours use Miralax or Milk of Magnesia (available over the counter) as directed. If constipation or diarrhea persists, call the office.

Call if you are having any problems after surgery. We prefer you call us directly rather than go to your local hospital or clinic. Even if you decide to go to your local emergency room, call us so we can arrange transfer if needed.

Call your surgeon’s office (listed in follow up section) for the following:

  • You have a fever of 101 degrees or higher.
  • You have drainage from your incisions.
  • Your incisions are red or swollen.
  • Your pain medicine is not helping your pain.
  • You have nausea or vomiting.
  • You are not passing gas.
  • You are having constipation.
  • You are having diarrhea.
  • Your eyes appear yellow; you have clay-colored stool, dark urine, and/or itching.
  • You have bloody stools.
  • You lose more than 10% of your body weight from the time of discharge.
  • You have sudden change in your drain output or appearance.

If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, you should call 911 or go to your local Emergency Room.