Post-op essentials

Knowing what to expect is the best antidote to nerves. We want you to understand exactly what will happen during your hospital stay. If you have any questions at all, do not hesitate to ask your doctor or nurse – we are all here to make you feel as comfortable as possible.

The five-step surgery process

  1. Theatre
  2. Recovery room
  3. Post-op
  4. Hospital stay, including wound care and medication
  5. Discharge 


  • The operating room is known as the theatre. Before you enter the theatre, you wait in the pre-op room. If your child is going to theatre, you may stay with them in the pre-op room and accompany them into the operating theatre until they are asleep.
  • Before administering the anaesthetic, the anaesthetist gives some oxygen by means of a mask, and then the anaesthetic by means of a drip. Once you are asleep, the anaesthetist intubates you (this can lead to having a sore throat after your operation). For children, the anaesthetic is administered through the mask, and a drip is inserted when they are asleep.
  • In theatre, you are connected to a monitor. Throughout the procedure, the anaesthetist observes how you are reacting to the anaesthetic.
  • Your privacy is important to us. Only the area operated upon is exposed: the rest of your body is covered with green sterile towels to ensure sterility and privacy.
  • The anaesthetist gives pain medication in theatre before you wake up, to ensure effective post-operative pain relief. 

Recovery room

This room is in the theatre complex, but outside the actual operating theatre. After your operation, you are moved to the recovery room and then back to the ward. In the recovery room, you are monitored carefully until you are fully awake. This stage can vary in length between 15 minutes to an hour. The anaesthetist makes the decision whether or not you are ready to go back to the ward. 


  • As soon as you are back in the ward, the nursing staff do more observations. They check your vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, temperature), assess the wound for bleeding, and determine if you are pain-free or feeling nauseous. The nursing staff decide how often these observations must be done, depending on the type of surgery/procedure. Please inform the nursing staff if you feel that your pain is not under control.
  • If you are allowed to eat after theatre, the nursing staff will provide you with the meal of the day. Certain surgeries/procedures require special diets, such as clear fluids. This will be discussed with you as necessary. It is important to adhere to the special diets in order to prevent complications.
  • It is possible that you may experience disorientation after the operation, with weakness in your legs. Under no circumstances should you try to get out of bed on your own. Please use the nurse call bell so that someone can come and assist you. Although you may be thirsty when you first come round from anaesthetic, it is important that you take only small sips of water to prevent nausea. Sucking ice is a better option. 

Hospital stay

While you are in hospital, a hospital or medical aid case manager might visit you. They are responsible for informing the medical aid of your recovery, and any changes in your condition (new or additional procedures, a confirmed diagnosis, or the need for high-cost medication, for example). The case manager will also inform the medical aid if you need to be admitted into High Care or ICU.

Your medical aid tells the case manager if any part of your service or treatment has been declined, or if the case manager needs to facilitate a letter of motivation. The case manager and the private credit controller also handle any private payments.

Wound care

While you are in hospital, no wound dressings are done without a doctor’s order. There is no standard arrangement that all dressings must be done on a daily basis: clean wounds are typically kept closed for a few days, whereas septic wounds will be cleaned one to three times a day. Your doctor will make the decision, and inform the nursing staff.

Should you need to continue with dressings at home, the nursing staff will teach you how to do it. General principles are:

  1. Ensure good hand hygiene.
  2. Clean with gauze and not with cotton wool.
  3. If a plaster gets wet, rather change it.

Download 5 essential wound care tips 


Your doctor will inform you if they want you to continue with your current medication while you are in hospital. When you leave the hospital, the ward responsible for your discharge will hand back the remainder of your medication you brought from home.

Your doctor will prescribe medication that you will be required to take home (TTO – to take out). The pharmacy will dispense the medication according to the requirements of your medical aid. Priority is given to all TTO prescriptions to cause as little delay as possible.

Please refer any queries or uncertainties regarding medication to the doctor, pharmacist or registered nurse before leaving the hospital.

Download medication dos and don'ts

10 top discharge tips

  • It is absolutely essential for continued recovery and safety that you understand your discharge instructions fully and that you are comfortable with your care plan after discharge.
  • The nursing staff or doctor will confirm follow-up appointments and wound care treatment, as well as your TTO medication.
  • Be sure to take home your X-rays, scans or sonar reports.
  • Check whether you have your cellphone charger and that it has not been left in the electric socket.
  • When packing, remember to check the bathroom for any of your toiletries.
  • Sick leave letters are obtainable from the doctor’s consulting room: the hospital is only allowed to provide a statement of account as proof of your admission.
  • A patient on blood-thinning therapy (for example, warfarin) must see a laboratory nurse to receive an information booklet and schedule their next INR (International Normalised Ratio) test date.
  • Remember to take orthopaedic appliances, such as crutches, home with you, if applicable.
  • Effective pain management is essential. Do not feel you have to be brave.
  • Your goal should be to rest and recover as much as possible after discharge.