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What to Expect after your Esophageal Surgery

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Immediately after Surgery

Most of you will go to the post-anesthesia recovery room for 1 – 2 hours for close observation before being moved to your hospital room. Many of you won’t remember much of the recovery room, which is normal. When you get to your room, you will feel groggy, but we want you to walk in the halls as soon as you feel up to it. The nurses will help you out of bed for the first few times, until you are steady on your feet. We also want you to work on deep breathing to expand your lungs and prevent pneumonia. The nurses will give you an incentive spirometer to help with this. It is important to tell the nurses if you are having too much pain or nausea to perform these activities, so that they can give you some medicine.


Eating in the Hospital

You will not be given anything by mouth for at least 6 hours after surgery, this will prevent nausea and retching from anesthesia. Many of you will need to wait to try anything by mouth until the next day, and after your X-ray. When you are given the go ahead to start drinking, you will be given a clear liquid diet (this includes jello). Your diet will be advanced at least to full liquids (anything you can pour) before you go home.


Post-Op X-Ray

Those with large hiatal hernia repairs, myotomy, pyloroplasty etc. will have an X-ray before advancing your diet. You will go to the radiology department, and they will have you stand up and drink some liquid (Gastrografin®) that shows up on the X-ray. This routine test lets us look at the surgical repair and make sure all looks good.



Many of you will have a tiny plastic tube (drain) connected to a suction bulb after surgery. This collects extra/unwanted fluid from the surgical site and allows us to test the fluid for salivary amylase (spit). This is a routine way to make sure all is healing properly.


Nasogastric (NG) Tube

A few of you will have a nasogastric tube to decompress your stomach to relieve extreme nausea, prevent vomiting and to decrease strain on stomach stitches. If needed, these tubes usually need to stay in place for the entire day after surgery.


This information has been approved by Emily Speer, MD (January 2017).