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Hydration After Surgery

Importance of hydration post op recovery

As an ICU/Recovery Nurse (PACU) many times I am asked… how soon after surgery can I resume drinking and eating a normal diet? The short answer is that it’s expected to begin a clear liquid diet soon following surgeries that are not GI (gastrointestinal/ stomach) related. As soon as a patient is more awake and able to follow commands post anesthesia is normally when small sips of water can be given. Providers normally advance the diet as tolerated given that there is no vomiting or nausea after the introduction of clear liquids.

One study conducted by the NCBI suggested that “this prospective randomized trial showed early oral hydration starting immediately after recovery from general anesthesia is safe and well tolerated in patients undergoing non-gastrointestinal surgery. Early oral hydration may increase patients’ satisfaction. Therefore, we believe patients should be allowed to choose drinking water immediately after general anesthesia for non-gastrointestinal surgery” (NCBI, 2014).

During the recovery process, our bodies strive to heal. Depending on the extent of the procedure done, it may be difficult to resume normal activities within a few days. Proper hydration is key to achieve a smooth and speedy recovery. Maintaining hydrated as well as carefully following doctors’ instructions on post-surgical care, allows patients to expedite their healing process and is crucial to their recovery.

Here are some facts regarding water:

· Our skin is the largest organ in our body and contains about 64% water, dehydration (not drinking enough water) causes the skin’s elasticity to decrease

· Our bodies carry oxygen and elements that promote healing including to surgical sites, Drinking adequately is essential to our system to initiate wound healing

· Anesthesia and pain killers cause constipation and drinking water/ fluids early on help reduce the chances of post-op constipation

· Water helps to eliminate the toxins from anesthesia and reduces the occurrence of nausea and fatigue after surgery

· Water helps move nutrients throughout the body that are necessary for wound healing

· Water helps keep our blood moving in our system and dehydration may cause blood thickening that may lead to dangerous complications like blood clots

· Aids in white cell transportation which helps prevent infections

· Regulates our internal body temperature by sweating and respiration

Signs and symptoms of dehydration:

· Lightheadedness/dizziness

· Rapid Heart Rate

· Muscle cramps/spasms

· Headache

· Dry mouth

· Fatigue

· Dark yellow urine (should be light or clear)

Tips that can help with resuming oral hydration early:

· Start with small sips advance to more as tolerated

· Keep a consistent drinking schedule (set a reminder alarm if necessary)

· Ask a family member or friend to kindly encourage drinking fluids

· Research hydration multipliers

· Drink water at a temperature of your liking

· Add water to nutrition such as smoothies, shakes, or soups

· Keep a water bottle of your choice handy

As we can see, water plays a huge role in our bodies and even more so during a time of recovery from surgery, illness, or trauma. If you found this article helpful, please feel free to leave a comment with other related topics you’ll like to read about on our blog!

Best Wishes,

Michelle C., BSN, RN.

Healing Corner & Co.


NCBI, 2014. Retrieved from

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