Postoperative Complications Of Surgery: What Complications Could Occur After A Surgical Procedure

Surgical procedures are done for several different reasons and each procedure has its own particular risks and benefits. There are, however, certain complications that could occur with any surgical procedure and some of them are listed below.


Some surgical procedures require the use of general anesthesia drugs. The use of these drugs may depress a person’s nervous system which include the muscles. Adequate breathing involves the use of muscles located in the diaphragm and elsewhere. If these muscles cannot contract as they should, it may lead to inadequate expansion of the lungs which in turn may cause a collapse in the air sacs in the lungs that may containing mucus. This sequence of events eventually causes pneumonia which is inflammation of the lungs.

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To prevent this, a nurse may do the following:

  • Teach the patient how to use and incentive spirometer and encourage its use because it promotes deep breathing and lung expansion
  • Encourage coughing and deep breathing exercises along with turning the patient on a schedule to mobilize and promote removal of mucus or other secretions in the lungs

Deep Vein Thrombosis

Surgery may involve being immobilized and staying in one place for a few hours. This lack of movement may cause blood to pool in the legs. After surgery, there is a possibility that blood clots will form in the legs because of pooling and travel to the lungs where they can block blood supply to the lungs further leading to pulmonary embolism. The formation of blood clots in the veins of the legs along with inflammation in the vein is known as deep vein thrombosis.

To prevent this, the nurse can:

  • Encourage the patient to get out of bed and move around to prevent blood pooling and improve blood circulation.
  • Put sequential compression devices on the patient’s legs
  • Perform passive range of motion exercises on the patient’s legs
  • Elevate the patient’s legs and avoiding any pressure behind the knees
  • Administer anticoagulant medication if ordered
  • Inform the patient that crossing of the legs, standing or sitting for long periods as well as dangling of the legs over the side of the bed should be avoided

Wound Infection

Sometimes surgery may involve cuts being made on the body. These cuts, if not properly cared for, may become an entrance for disease causing organisms but also a breeding ground for these organisms. The nurse because of this risk , uses proper infection control techniques when dressing the wound.

To reduce the risk of infection and by doing the following:

  • Inspecting the incision site for redness, secretions or drainage and swelling which indicate infection
  • Monitoring the patients temperature because an increase in this vital sign may mean the presence of an infection
  • Administering any prescribed anti-infective medication as ordered
  • making sure all wound drains attached to the patient’s incisions function as they should

Other Possible Complications

Some other potential complications that may occur after surgery are bleeding which may be internal or external, blockage in the bowels due to slowing down of the digestive tract caused by anesthesia. The administered anesthesia may also lead to constipation and the inability to urinate. To reduce the risk of experiencing any of these complications, it is necessary to adhere to advice given by healthcare providers.

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