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Care of the surgical patient: postoperative care

Matthew Robertson Claire Ford First published: Last updated:


This is part three of a series covering care of the surgical patient. This article provides a clinical overview of the care of a surgical patient at the postoperative care stage.

See ‘Care of the surgical patient: preoperative care’ and ‘Care of the surgical patient: intraoperative care’ for further information on the stages preceding postoperative care.

Postoperative care

Before the patient is transferred back to the ward, a comprehensive handover must take place in theatre between the post-anaesthetic care unit (PACU) practitioner and ward staff, including:

  • details of the procedure
  • the patient's current physical condition
  • level of responsiveness
  • airway and breathing
  • oxygen therapy
  • circulation
  • wound dressings and drains
  • fluid output and input
  • pain levels
  • medication
  • any other specific instructions (Wicker, 2015)

As well as the standard nursing roles and responsibilities, nurses caring for surgical

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Matthew Robertson

Claire Ford