Post-Op Instructions

Post-Op Instructions

Post Operative Tips

Here are a few points that many people wonder about around the time of surgery.  Skim down through these for a good overview of general postoperative care. Care specific to your operation will be discussed in your consult and be sent home with you after surgery. Be sure and look at our pain medication policy at the bottom of this page.


You may apply ice in a zip-lock bag to the area to decrease pain and swelling.  After 48-72 hours, you may continue it, but it is those first 48 hours where it has the greatest effect.  If you had facial surgery, you may find that ice is too cold and frozen peas in a bag work better.


If you had surgery on your head, hand, or foot then elevating that body part on pillows or by sleeping in a recliner will decrease the swelling and the throbbing. It is the first 48-72 hours where this elevation has the greatest effect.


Dressings customarily come off in 24 – 48 hours. Do not be surprised to have a small amount of bloody drainage soaking through to the outer surface of the dressing.  You may add gauze on top of the dressing to cover the spot.

Bathing and Showering

Once the dressings are removed, you may bath or shower. You may get the incision and sutures wet. However after the bath or shower, the incision needs to be thoroughly dried by being open to the air for 5-10 minutes, or better yet, by using a hair dryer on warm (not hot) for 5-10 minutes.

The incision may ooze for 2-5 days after the operation. Dry gauze to cover the incision and protect your clothes and furniture is appropriate.

Antibiotic ointment is not necessary, but can be used to help with itching if desired. Apply only a very thin film 2-3 times per day.

Drain Care

Expect some oozing where the drain exits the skin.  You should “strip” the drains 3-4 times per day. Pinch the tube with the index finger and the thumb of one hand. Pinch next to that spot with the other hand, and slide along the tube, pushing the fluid towards the bulb. Release the first pinch point. Repeat 2 to 3 times. A small amount of water or lotion on the second hand helps it slide along the tubing.

Empty the bulb and record the output whenever the bulb is more than one third full or every twelve hours.

Incision Care

The incision may ooze for 2-5 days after the operation. Dry gauze to cover the incision and protect your clothes and furniture is appropriate.  Antibiotic ointment is not necessary, but can be used to help with itching if desired. Apply only a very thin film 2-3 times per day.

Antibiotic ointment

Antibiotic ointment is NOT required or recommended.  If you are itching, you may use a very small film of antibiotic ointment on a fingertip to rub the incision rather than scratch at it.

Scar Care

For the first 4-6 weeks after surgery, the scar is growing and getting stronger. This is good and important healing.

After this, our goal is to have a pale, flat, narrow scar. We believe that rubbing and scar massage is more important than what you rub on the scar. Patients have done well with emu oil, Vitamin E., cocoa butter, Nivea, Vaseline Intensive Care, etc. More expensive products like Mederma and Silcone sheeting can also be used. Lotions that smell good usually have a perfume dissolved in alcohol in them and can irritate or dry our scars and should be avoided.

When will I feel good again?

Anesthesia, pain, pain medications, changes in diet, and the physical reaction to surgery all put a stress on the body. This may affect your energy and your mood. This lasts a week or so for smaller operations and 6-8 weeks for bigger and combination operations.

When Can I Drive?

Driving not only has some risk of physical harm, but an even bigger risk from a liability point of view. You should no longer be taking narcotics and be able to move comfortably before resuming driving. For bigger operations, this is usually 2-3 weeks.

When can I go back to work?

This frequently depends on the physical demands of your job and the specific operation you have. If you are having general anesthesia and a major operation, either cosmetic or elective, you will likely be off work a minimum of one week and as long as 3 to 6 if your job demands lifting or straining.

Pain and Medication Policy

At Buchele Plastic Surgery, we want to provide you with high quality care. This includes good decisions and good record keeping. Our practice not only includes cosmetic surgery, but reconstructive and trauma patients as well. All of these patients can expect to have pain and require pain medications, including narcotics.

To maintain our desired high quality of care, we have the following policies. This notice is to inform you of them, and to ask for your signature letting us know you have read and agree to them.

1. We will ask you questions and expect honest answers about your health, including allergies, current medications, current illnesses, and alcohol and drug usage.

2. We will manage your acute surgical or trauma related pain. However, we will not manage long term or chronic pain.

3. It is your responsibility to follow the directions for your prescriptions and monitor the quantity of medication and how long it will last as you get near the end.

4. Requests for refills are taken during office hours. Some refills can not be done by phone, and require you to come by the office to pick up a prescription.

5. Pain medications are not refilled at night or on the weekends.

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