Children's Health and Wellness

Discomforts and Complications After Surgery

What are some common postoperative discomforts?

The amount of discomfort after surgery depends on the type of surgery done. Some typical discomforts include:

  • Nausea and vomiting (from general anesthesia)

  • Soreness in the throat (if the patient needs artificial ventilation; caused by a tube placed in the windpipe to assist breathing during surgery)

  • Soreness and swelling around the incision site

  • Restlessness and sleeplessness

  • Thirst

  • Constipation and flatulence

What complications may occur after surgery?

Sometimes complications can occur following surgery. The following are the most common complications, as defined by the American Medical Association. 

Your child’s health care provider will figure out the best treatment based on:

  • How old your child is

  • His or her overall health and medical history

  • How sick he or she is

  • How well your child can handle specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • How long the condition is expected to last

  • Your opinion or preference

Postsurgical complications may include:

  • Shock. Shock is the dangerous reduction of blood flow throughout the body. Shock is most often caused by reduced blood pressure.

  • Bleeding. Blood loss from the site of surgery, for example, can lead to shock.

  • Wound infection. When bacteria enter the site of surgery, an infection can result. Infections can delay healing.

  • Lung complications.  A lack of deep breathing can lead to lung problems. Deep breathing exercises may be recommended to help keep the lungs healthy after surgery.

  • Urinary retention. Temporary urine retention, or the inability to empty the bladder, may occur after surgery. This is caused by the anesthetic.

  • Reaction to anesthesia. Although rare, reactions to anesthetics do occur.

The likelihood that complications of surgery will occur vary with each child and with each operation. Always consult your child's doctor for more information.

Print Source: Textbook of Pediatric Care. Maxwell, L. 2009, Part 3; Section 4; 63.
Online Source: Normothermia Clinical Guideline, American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses
Online Source: Pain and Comfort Clinical Guideline, American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses
Online Source: PONV-PDNV Clinical Guidelines, American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses
Online Source: Q&A: What You Should Know Before Surgery, American Society of Anesthesiologists
Online Source: Who will hold my hand? A guide for parents whose child needs an operation, American College of Surgeons
Online Editor: Metzger, Geri K.
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 11/3/2014
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