Preventing Pneumonia and Blood Clots

Preventing pneumonia

Pay attention to your breathing after your surgery! A lot of people, especially if they have had an abdominal or chest surgery, find themselves taking very shallow breaths. This can lead to underfilling of your lungs and a pneumonia.

To prevent pneumonia during your stay:

  • Several times each hour, practice taking deep breaths. To do this, breathe in through your mouth, until you can feel your lungs expanding as much as they can. Hold for one or two seconds and then slowly release the air out through your nose. Holding a pillow against your belly or incision site can help you with the discomfort this may cause.
  • During your hospital stay, you may be asked to use a special device that helps expand your lungs, called an Incentive Spirometer. If you had a surgery that makes it hard to take deep breaths, you can be at risk of developing pneumonia, and using an incentive spirometer helps prevent this from happening.
  • If you are at higher risk of pneumonia, your nurse will show you how to do these lung exercises. It is very important that you do these exercises several times each hour while you are awake.

Preventing blood clots

People having surgery are more at risk for developing blood clots in their legs. This is because the surgery itself increases the risk of clots and because of the decreased activity many people have after surgery. Blood clots can be dangerous and harmful to your recovery.

Here are a few things you can do to prevent blood clots:

  • Move around as much as you can while you are in the hospital. If it is safe for you to do so, walk around the unit multiple times a day. Each your meals in a chair rather than in the bed.
  • Perform “ankle pumps” each hour when you are in bed. The motion of pulling your toes up towards your head contracts the calf muscle and keeps blood moving which helps prevent clots from forming.
  • Wear the sequential compression stockings you will be provided with during your hospital stay when you are in bed. These are special sleeves that wrap around your lower legs, are hooked to a machine, and provide a gentle massage.
  • If prescribed by your doctor, you may receive small injections of a medication (like heparin) in your abdomen that can help prevent blood clots from forming while you are hospitalized.