General and Gastrointestinal Surgery

Pain and Discomfort

It is normal to have pain after your operation. How much pain a patient experiences depends more on the individual than on the operation. Pain is normally present at the incision site and at the site of the hernia. If you or your family were not informed of anything unusual after surgery, rest assured that everything is fine and went according to plan.


You should keep ice on the area of surgery for 24 to 48 hours. This minimizes postoperative swelling and reduces pain. There is no benefit to using ice after 48 hours.


You have been given a prescription for a narcotic: hydrocodone (Vicodin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) with codeine. You can take one or two tablets every six hours. If you experience itching or a rash, call the office immediately and stop the medication. If your pain is not controlled by the medication you have been given, call the office. It is helpful to take some type of pain medicine (narcotic or over the counter) before getting out of bed and before going to sleep the first few days after surgery. 

If you don't like the drowsy feeling these medications cause, or you no longer need a strong medication, you can try the following: 

  • Ibuprofen (600 mg every 6 hours)

  • Tylenol (two extra strength every 6 hours), or 

  • Aspirin (two every 6 hours)

Bowel discomfort

You may notice alterations in your bowel habits following your surgery. 

  • Diarrhea can occur from the surgery itself or from the antibiotics you received.  This is best treated with Metamucil, Amphojel, or yogurt with active cultures.

  • Constipation is very common; it results from narcotic pain medicine. To avoid this, take Haley's M-O or Milk of Magnesia as directed on the bottle one time per day while you take the narcotics. 

Groin discomfort

Following surgery, men may notice swelling of their penis and/or scrotum, and women may notice swelling of the labial area of their vulva. This is from the surgery and will go away. Ice (and a scrotal support for men) will reduce discomfort associated with this.

You may also notice bruising (black and blue discoloration) of the groin and/or genitals, as well as numbness of the area. This, also, is not cause for alarm, even if it occurs a few days after the surgery.  It will usually go away in 7 to 10 days.

Care of the incision