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Finding Your Way Around the Hospital: The Recovery Room

By HERWriter
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Wellness related image Photo: Getty Images

The recovery room of a hospital may go by a few different names. It may be called the post-op (post-operative) room because this is where they take you after you have an operation.

It may be called PACU (post-anesthesia care unit) since this is where you are monitored after being anesthetized for surgery. Less often, patients who have had procedures involving sedation in another area of the hospital come to the recovery room

People regaining consciousness in the recovery room are a confused lot. They're groggy from the physical effects of the anesthetic, and mentally stunned by what feels like a sudden change of scene. The last thing they remember is probably the appearance of a mask issuing forth anesthetic.

In seemingly the blink of an eye they're in a completely different place, probably with different people and possibly in pain. It takes a head shake or two to regain some composure and context.

More accurately it can take an hour or more for the after-effects of anesthesia to dissipate. The patient may be drowsy and drift in and out of sleep for awhile.

Generally anesthesia is safe. But monitoring for possible adverse reactions or complications is essential.

In the recovery room, a patient's vital signs are watched closely while anesthesia is wearing off. Vital signs include blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, pulse and temperature. Nurses keep a close eye on any bleeding and drainage of the incision area.

A nurse may apply an oxygen mask emanating a humidified oxygen mixture. This assists the tiny air sacs in the lungs in the task of getting back to normal. These sacs can be prone to collapsing and becoming dry from the anesthetic. The extra humidity helps prevent postoperative pneumonia from developing.

The patient's body temperature may drop due to having been the recipient of general anesthesia. Warmed blankets are often on hand to top up body temperature. Intravenous fluids may be heated as well.

The recovery room is usually near the operating room, preferably right next door. Visitors may be asked to put on a cap and gown to inhibit the spread of germs, or may not be allowed in at all.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.