Enhanced Recovery Programme for Colorectal Surgery
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Enhanced Recovery Programme is an evidence-based programme of combining several interventions and practices to promote recovery after colorectal surgery, helping you to return to normal as quickly as possible. Using this new approach to care, recovery after surgery is more comfortable, easier and happens more quickly.
The key interventions this programme includes:
- Limiting pre-operative fasting
- Avoiding unnecessary bowel preparation
- Tailored intra-operative interventions
- Tailored post-operative pain relief
- Early feeding after surgery
- Early mobilization after surgery
These elements speed up recovery and reduce the possibility of certain complications. The programme aims to ensure that patients are involved in their own care and work in partnership with the team to recover sooner.
Smoking delays wound healing and increases your risk for developing chest complications during and after surgery. We advise you to stop smoking for at least 2 weeks prior to surgery and at least 6 weeks after. (Actually, we advise you to stop smoking altogether!!!)
Please ensure that you bring ALL your current medications (prescribed and non-prescribed) with you on admission. Whenever possible, bring the original packaging.
You should eat as normal as possible up until your surgery. Eat regular meals containing protein-rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs, cheese, lentils and milk. Include carbohydrate foods at each meal, such as bread, rice, pasta and potatoes.
- You can have normal food up to 6 hours before your surgery.
- Clear fluids can be taken up to 2 hours prior to surgery.
- You will be given a carbohydrate drink that you must finish 2 hours before surgery.
- You must not take anything (solid or liquid) for the last 2 hours prior to your surgery.
Shaving and personal hygiene
You must not shave the surgical area yourself at home. There is evidence that shaving the surgical area with a razor blade prior to surgery is associated with an increased risk of wound infection. Take a shower on the day of surgery; this can help to reduce the risk of wound infections.
For some colorectal surgical procedures, a stoma is mandatory, for others, it might be necessary only in unexpected and unusual circumstances. When your operation is explained to you, the potential need for a stoma (permanent or temporary) will also be explained.
Most patients are referred to the stomatherapist prior to colorectal surgery. They will also counsel and explain all there is to know for your specific operation. They will make marks on your abdomen, to help the surgeon to make the best stoma possible.
Bowel preparation is only needed for specific indications and will be explained to you if you need to take any medication for cleaning the colon.
DAY OF ADMISSION
On the day of admission, please bring the following items:
- All medications in the original packaging
- Nightclothes, gown and slippers
It is advised to leave jewellery, large amounts of money and cell phones at home.
You will be given instructions on when to stop eating and drinking to be ready for surgery. The Anaesthetist will see you prior to your operation and discuss the options available for post-operative pain relief.
You may be given an enema on the morning of your operation.
AFTER YOUR OPERATION
When you wake up you will be in the recovery area or High Care Unit. You will be closely monitored. It is important to do breathing and circulatory exercises as soon as possible.
Following colorectal surgery, patients are usually given an Epidural or Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA). This, and other options for pain relief, will be discussed with you prior to your operation.
If you still experience a lot of pain after your operation, it is important that you inform the staff, as alternative methods of controlling pain can be prescribed.
Oral painkillers will be prescribed as soon as possible and the Epidural or PCA will be stopped when you are tolerating the oral painkillers and your pain is adequately controlled.
Early mobilisation is a major part of the enhanced recovery programme. After your operation you will be encouraged to mobilise as soon as possible. Most patients sit in the chair on the first day after their operation. You will be helped to get out of bed and walk from the second day after the operation.
Early mobilisation not only helps to recover faster from the surgery, but also helps to prevent complications such as deep vein thrombosis and lung infections. In addition to early mobilisation, you will receive compression stockings, as well as a small injection daily to prevent blood clots.
Diet and Fluids
You will be encouraged to drink and eat as soon as possible after your operation. Energy drinks will be given from the evening of your operation.
Tubes and drips
Your intravenous drip will remain in place until you can eat and drink adequately. When you wake up from your operation you will have a catheter to allow us to monitor your urine output and help to keep you comfortable after the operation. This will be removed as soon as possible.
It is not unusual to experience feeling sick after the operation. If you feel sick, inform the staff, as medication to relieve this will be prescribed.
Physiotherapy is an essential part of your recovery after surgery and helps to prevent lung complications. It is essential to perform the breathing exercises that you will be given.
The following techniques can help to prevent lung infections:
- Positioning – Try and sit up as much as possible
- Deep breathing exercises
- Bed and chair exercises
- Getting out of bed and walking
- Rest – as important as exercise!
DEEP BREATHING EXERCISES SHOULD BE DONE EVERY HOUR:
- Breathe in deeply
- Pause for a second or two, then sigh out gently
- Repeat 5 times
- Rest for a few breaths then
- Fully support your abdomen by placing both hands on a pillow on your abdomen, apply firm pressure and cough.
- Rest for a few seconds and repeat the cycle once more
- Circle your feet and ankles 15 times
- Move your feet up and down 15 times
- Gently bend your knees up and down 10 times
Discharge and Home
The aim of Enhanced Recovery is for you to get home to recover as soon as possible. It is important to arrange the support from family or friends to help you at home, before you come for your operation. Adequate rest is an important part of your recovery.
You will be discharged from hospital when:
- You are mobilizing around the unit
- Your pain is controlled
- You are eating and drinking
- You are passing flatus
- You can independently care for your stoma
You must arrange for someone to collect you from hospital. You will not be able to drive yourself. Bring clothes for discharge with to hospital.
You will receive medication to take home with your discharge. Please ensure that you know how and when to take all medication before you leave the hospital. Also ensure that you know exactly when your follow-up appointments are, not only with your doctors, but also with the stomatherapist.
If you experience any problems during the first week at home, call the ward for advice, or return to the hospital immediately.
Following the operation, it is advisable to avoid housework, excessive exercise and lifting heavy objects for 6 to 8 weeks. It is important to exercise daily, but also to rest regularly when you get home. Gradually increase the amount of exercise that you do.
Walking is an excellent gentle exercise. Avoid high impact exercise such as gym, aerobics or jogging for around 12 weeks after the operation. You may start swimming after 6 to 8 weeks, as long as your wounds have healed.
A normal and healthy diet is recommended. Try and eat at least 3 meals per day. If you have an ileostomy, the stomatherapist and dietician will give you advice on certain foods to avoid.
Your bowel movements might change after the operation. If you are worried, discuss these symptoms with your surgeon.
The decision on when to start driving is in consideration of the safety of others, as well as your own. Before you drive you should:
- Be fully able to concentrate
- Have stopped all medication that can affect your ability to drive
- Comfortably be able to perform an emergency stop
It is advisable to check with your insurance company what their specific policy is before you recommence driving.
Sexual desire can alter after diagnosis and treatment of an abdominal problem. However, once you are feeling well and your wounds have healed you should be able to return to your normal life style and a normal sex life, even when wearing a stoma bag.
Rectal surgery can permanently affect your sexual ability. This can happen if the nerves that are connected to the sexual organs are affected by the surgical procedure. Do not be ashamed or discouraged to discuss such a problem with your surgeon or the stoma therapist.
BACK TO WORK
Depending on the type of operation, you should be able to return to work within 4 to 6 weeks after your operation. If your work involves heavy lifting or manual labour, you might need at least 6 weeks before returning to work.