Hiatal hernia surgery is a major operation performed under general anesthesia. Incisions are made into the abdomen that require a few weeks to heal. Your stomach is pulled out of the esophagus and because of this, these organs must also be allowed to heal before a normal diet can be resumed.
After hiatal hernia surgery, you will have the nasal gastric tube in place for draining out stomach acid. You will not be allowed to eat for two or three days or until the tube is removed. You will recover in the hospital for a period of one to six days before being sent home to finish recuperation.
By the time you return home your incisions will have begun to heal but you may still have optional dressings on. You may want to wear one for comfort’s sake because it will prevent friction between your incision and your clothing. Follow your doctor’s instructions concerning the care of your incisions. You will probably be allowed to get your incision wet, and you may be instructed to apply ointment. However, do not put anything on your incision if you have not been instructed to do so.
You may be discharged with medications to take during your recovery. This might include antibiotics and prescription painkillers. Take all medications according to label instructions. Do not stop taking your antibiotics even if you feel well. Do not drink alcohol when you are taking prescription painkillers and do not combine prescription painkillers with over the counter pain relief medications.
You must resume your normal daily activities slowly after hiatal hernia surgery. Initially you will be allowed to shower, take walks, ride in the car, use stairs, and lift up to 2 pounds. However, you should not drive for two weeks and you must use caution when bending, lifting, or twisting your body for three months after your surgery.
When you return home, you should eat small amounts more frequently throughout the day. For the first two weeks after hiatal hernia surgery, you should only consume clear liquids. This includes foods like water, broth, ice chips, fruit juice, jello, and popsicles. You should not eat solid foods, thick liquids, soft drinks, candy, or chew gum. Start with 1/2 cup of liquid and gradually consume more until you can drink 1 cup at a time.
Starting on the third week after your surgery, you can add soft foods like milkshakes, yogurt, pudding, oatmeal, and strained soups. On the fifth week after surgery, you can add mushy foods like pasta, fish, applesauce, cooked vegetables, mashed potatoes, ground beef, and soft fruits. You should continue to avoid meat, bread, and raw vegetables.
Because your upper digestive tract has to heal following hiatal hernia surgery, you must be careful not to irritate it with hard or sharp foods for up to three months after surgery. In addition, it will take approximately three months for your incisions to fully heal so that you can continue with regular activities that might include heavy lifting and bending.
When you first arrive home after your surgery, you should watch your incision for signs of infection. Call your doctor if you noticed any swelling, redness, or drainage from around your incision. You should also notify your doctor if you have a fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.
It is possible that your doctor will give you specific instructions related to your particular medical condition. Above all else, follow your doctor’s guidelines to ensure you have a speedy an uneventful recovery. Be sure to keep your follow-up appointments with your doctor so he can monitor your recovery from hiatal hernia surgery.