Once a patient is moved from the operating room (OR), they will normally be taken to the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU). Most patients are awake during this transfer, though they hardly remember it. When the patient first begins to wake up, they will be confronted with a lot of strange sights and sounds. Often, the voice of nurse is the first sound to be heard by the patient.
Patients will notice that they are attached to several monitoring machines, including a blood pressure cuff, which will squeeze their arm at intervals. They may also notice a loop of plastic tubing that passes over their lip and blows oxygen into their nose.
The main focus while a patient is in the PACU is monitoring their safety and comfort during their immediate surgical recovery.
In-Patient Care After the PACU
When a patient is moved from the PACU to their hospital room, it is common that their IV stays with them. "There are several reasons for this. Patients who have had major operations affecting their abdomen may not be able to eat or drink until their digestive systems recover, several days after surgery. During this time the IV can be used to supply them with fluids and nutrition. Intravenous medications can also be an effective method for pain relief after surgery."
Out-Patient Care After the PACU
Patients who have had an outpatient surgery performed are often moved to a secondary recovery area where they can relax and complete their recovery until they are ready to go home. The IV will be removed when the nursing staff determines that the patient is ready to go. The staff should review the discharge statements with the patient and the responsible adult designated to take the patient home. If you are scheduled for an outpatient surgery, it is imperative that you have someone scheduled to pick you up from the hospital and stay with you at home until you are fully recovered from the anesthesia.
Hill, A.J., MD, PhD. The Patient's Guide to Anesthesia. New York: Kensington, 1999.
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