Recovering From An Open Surgery

Let me start off by saying that I was terrified when I found out I needed an open surgery. An open surgery is when the surgeon makes around a 6 inch incision just above your pubic bone. Fortunately, laparoscopic surgeries are the most common endometriosis surgeries, which is really a great thing because they're minimally invasive. For a laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon makes very small incisions that are usually only around an inch in size. You usually heal more quickly, and the chance for complications are lower.

But some endometriosis surgeries require open surgery, like when I needed a bowel resection because my uterus and bowel were connected with endometriosis tissue. I didn’t do any research on the healing and recovery process for this surgery, which made the experience more scary than I think it should have been.

Here are my tips to (hopefully) prepare those who need open surgery:

The recovery

One of the hardest parts of my open surgery recovery was the length of healing it took for my incision to properly close and heal. With laparoscopic surgeries, I noticed I hardly felt the incisions after a few days, but with my open surgery, it was at least 2-3 weeks. Granted, all of our bodies heal at different rates, so it’s always dependant on that. This means you could heal before that time, but I wish I had known it could take longer. This longer healing can make you feel impatient, especially if you’ve had easier recoveries in the past. I was also impatient when it came to swelling and how long that seemed to last. Another thing that comes into play is if they close the incision with glue or staples. I’ve talked to women who have had both and most agreed with me that they didn't like the staples for the simple fact that removing them wasn't the most comfortable feeling. And lastly, prepare for a longer hospital stay. Because of the size of the incision, they will sometimes keep you a few days instead of being sent home the day of.

Understanding the risks

With any sort of surgery, the risk of complications or infections will be greater if the cut is larger. Things like infections and blood clots can be the most common, so it’s important to keep your eye on the incision and never hesitate to call your doctor if you notice anything strange. I learned first hand the importance of that when I noticed a red bump on my incision after I thought I had healed. What I regret is that I waited a whole week to call my doctor because I didn't think too much of it. Then I began to worry when I noticed the bump became larger and stopped looking as healed. They got me in immediately and told me I had developed a blood clot, which was trying to push its way through my incision. It wasn’t painful at all, but made me feel like I had taken a million steps backwards in my healing. He was able to remove it surgically, but it still took another few weeks to close again. Again, just like any surgery it’s important to listen to our bodies and keep our doctors in the loop about any changes when it comes to your incisions.

Treating your scar

Once you’re healed, you’re still left with a large scar that you might have never experienced before. Prepare for lots of itching from the healing process and maybe even a numb sensation of the area because of all the nerves they have to cut into. Along with that, the area will feel super hard to the touch. Apparently, this is thick scar tissue that has built up. While in physical therapy for pelvic pain, my therapist taught me to gently massage around and on the scar to help loosen the tissues. It can feel strange, but I’ve noticed through the years my scar has become less hard and the skin around it feels more like it used to.

As far as appearance goes, I definitely felt a bit self conscious about it at first even though it's below the bikini line. I personally never tried any scar relieving creams, but in time, mine has faded like any scar will. The itching was gone within a few months, but the numbness seemed to stick around for at least 6. I felt that the gentle massages were the most helpful in my healing process in general, so treat your scar with lots of love! Its been through an extremely rough trauma and might need some tending to for a while after. And most importantly, remind yourself when you see your scar that it is a sign of your resilience and strength, and you are a true survivor to power through any type of surgery.

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