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After Surgery Care

How will I feel after my surgery?

  • You may have a sore throat from the breathing tube that was in place during your surgery.
  • You may feel sick to your stomach and tired from the medications you were given during and after your surgery. Tiredness can last up to 6 or 8 weeks.
  • You will have some bruising and tenderness in the area of your operation.
  • You may have numbness in your groin.
  • Feelings of tightness, heaviness, tingling, burning, or more sensitivity are also common. Gently rubbing and tapping the area can help get rid of these sensations.
  • Your surgeon may prescribe you medication (gabapentin) for these feelings.

What are some things I need to do after my surgery?

Deep breathing and coughing:

  • Do deep breathing exercises as soon as possible to keep your lungs clear after surgery.
  • For the first 2 days after surgery take 10 deep breaths 4 to 5 times a day.
  • After your deep breaths, cough 2 to 3 times.
  • Coughing up a bit of sputum (saliva and mucus) after surgery is normal.

Will I have pain after my surgery?

  • You may have some mild pain or discomfort following surgery.
  • You will be given a prescription for pain medicine before you leave the hospital.
  • Be sure to fill your prescription for pain medicine as soon as possible so that you have it available if you should need it.
  • Take your pain medicine exactly as it is directed so that you can have good pain control.
  • If you are still having pain after taking your pain medicine, or you have concerns about your pain medicine, call the Melanoma Site Nursing Team at 416-480-5000.

Will I be able to move or walk after my surgery?

  • Keep your affected leg raised 80 percent of the time while you have your drains in to help reduce swelling. For example, put your leg on a pillow while lying in bed or sit in a reclining chair with the foot-rest elevated.
  • When out of bed, walk normally. There is no need to use a cane, walker or crutches unless you did so before surgery.
  • When walking upstairs, lead with the unaffected leg.
  • When walking downstairs, lead with the unaffected leg.
  • DO NOT use leg weights or do repetitive movements with the leg – such as bike riding or long walks – for 4 to 6 weeks.
  • If you are given a tensor bandage to wear on the leg, keep this on especially during movement and walking.

How do I take care of my surgical incision (cut)?

  • You may take off the outer dressings 48 hours after surgery.
  • You will have a dressing around your drains which will be changed every 1 to 2 days.
  • You may shower 48 hours after your surgery.
  • If you have stitches on the groin dissection, they may be rough and stick out from the skin. A dry gauze dressing may be put over the stitches until the stitches are taken out so they don't bother you.
  • The stitches and drains will be taken out by your surgeon at your follow-up appointment. Please DO NOT let other physicians remove your stitches unless authorized by your surgeon.
  • A small amount of blood on the dressing is normal.
  • You may be on antibiotic pills to prevent infection for the first 1 to 2 weeks.

What about my other regular medicine?

  • Restart your regular medicine after surgery unless your surgeon has told you not to.
  • If you normally take Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) or a blood thinner (such as Coumadin), ask your surgeon when you can start these medicines after surgery.
  • If you have any questions about your other regular medicines, please contact your family doctor.

What can be done about constipation?

You may become constipated after surgery. Constipation can happen for many reasons. Certain medicines, a change in your diet and less physical activity can all lead to constipation.

If you have trouble having a bowel movement:

  • Drink a lot of fluid after your surgery.
  • Use a stool softener, such as Colace. This is available at a pharmacy.
  • Or, use a laxative such as Senokot, which helps the bowels to move. Take 1 to 2 Senokot tablets twice a day as needed. Senokot is available at a pharmacy.
  • Eat prunes or drink prune juice.
  • If these things don’t help, please call the nursing phone line at 416-480-5000.

How can I help the scar to heal?

  • Scar massage helps to get rid of the sensitivity, tightness, and itchiness around the scar.
  • It also helps to soften and loosen the scar area so that you can better move your leg.
  • You may start scar massage 4 to 6 weeks after surgery, once the incision has healed and the drains and stiches/staples are out.
  • Scar massage should be done for 2 to 3 minutes, 2 to 3 times a day.
  • DO NOT use any creams, oils or ointments unless instructed by your surgeon.

How do I do scar massage?

  • Put 2 fingers on the scar area.
  • Move your fingers in an up and down zigzag pattern one way across the scar and then move your fingers in circles the other way across the scar.

    scar massage

When should I get medical help if I run into problems?

If within 72 hours of your surgery:
  • You have a lot of bleeding from where you had your surgery. “A lot of” means a completely soaked bandage.
  • Or, you have a lot of very bloody drainage in the drain (need to empty 3 times in 8 hours).

Call your surgeon’s office. If you cannot get in contact with the surgeon’s office, phone the general surgery resident on call at 416-480-4244.


If you have any of the symptoms listed below — and it is between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday — call the Melanoma Site Nursing Team at 416-480-5000. If the symptoms happen outside of these times, call the general surgery resident on call at 416-480-4244 or go to the closest Emergency Department.

  • Your incision (cut) gets red, swollen or very tender to touch. You may have an infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics.
  • You have a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for over 24 hours. You may have an infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics.

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