How to Recover From Bladder Surgery

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Anatomy of the bladder
Anatomy of the bladder (Image: Image by the U.S. National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program)

Recovery from bladder surgery--which often involves the partial or total removal of the bladder--can be a long, painful process. Not only do patients have to recover from the effects of surgery, but they have to learn to function with either a neobladder, usually made from a piece of the intestine, or a stoma and ostomy bags. The medical staff will walk you through procedures and help you get your basic functions back after surgery, but you'll need to take some steps at home to recover and adjust to the permanent changes you will be facing.

Exercise regularly, per your doctor's instructions. Don't let fatigue be an obstacle. The more you work out, the less fatigue you will feel.

Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. This will reduce the chance of constipation and straining during bowel movements, which can be damaging after bladder surgery.

Perform pelvic exercises, per doctor's instructions, to regain full control of bladder functions. Squeeze the muscle you use to stifle gas and try to hold it for 10 seconds. Do 15 sets morning noon and night, and try to work up to 25. Regaining control can take several weeks.

If a neobladder was made during surgery, irrigate it regularly. The hospital staff will provide instructions after surgery, but generally, you will inject it with sterilized water via the catheter and a sterilized syringe. Do this three times a day.

In the case of a full bladder removal, or cystectomy, follow hospital instructions on cleaning and care of the stoma and replacement of the urine-collecting bags. Learning to do this on your own is critical in maintaining independence.

Call your doctor if you experience any of the following: fever, swelling or pain around the incision, urine with blood or that is cloudy and foul-smelling, diarrhea, a noted decrease in urine output or a change in color of the stoma.

Consider support groups or psychotherapy if depression persists after bladder surgery. There are groups dedicated specifically to bladder cancer patients, such as the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network. Doctors also might prescribe antidepressants to help with recovery.

Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid heavy lifting and driving for one month after surgery, and avoid sex for three weeks. Climbing stairs and showering are fine.

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