Topics of Interest

New Research on the Myths Regarding Instructions Doctors Give Following Surgery

Building the Evidence Base for Postoperative (and Postpartum) Advice

Dr. Parker’s Note: I have summarized most of the information from this paper in a new web page: Caring for Yourself After Surgery.

Authors: Minig, L; Trimble, E; Sarsotti, C; Sebastiani, M; Spong, C.

Journal: Obstetrics & Gynecology:  October 2009 – Volume 114, pp 892-900

Study from: National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland

Problem:  Following surgery, doctors give fairly standard instructions regarding what activities the patient can, and cannot, do.  Unfortunately, there is little science to back up these recommendations.

Study: The authors reviewed studies related to post-operative instructions from medical journals, medical textbooks in obstetrics, gynecology, and general surgery, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Practice Bulletins and Committee Opinions and clinical guidelines of Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of the United Kingdom in order to evaluate current recommendations.

Authors’ Conclusions: Resumption of usual activities after gynecologic surgery helps integrate women back into their normal life. Available data do not support many of the recommendations previously provided. Restrictions on lifting and climbing stairs should be reconsidered. Guidance on driving should focus on the concern about driving while using narcotic medications rather than concern about opening the wound. Much more study is needed to better define all the above issues.

Dr. Parker’s Comments: As the authors state in the introduction to the article, “recommendations for activity after discharge remain based on tradition and anecdote”.  To the authors’ credit, they investigated current recommendations and came up with little evidence to support what we usually tell women.

The authors suggest that the new recommendations be fully tested by scientific study, but since this is unlikely to happen soon (or ever), it is best to discuss the new recommendations with your doctor.

Patients are often each others’ best resource for finding and sharing information about recovery after surgery. I encourage you to post comments on this post if you have something helpful to share.


Disclaimer: The ideas, procedures and suggestions contained on this web site are not intended as a substitute for consulting with your physician. All matters regarding your health require medical supervision.