Kidney Surgery: Guidelines for Home (The James)

Kidney Surgery: Guidelines for Home (The James)


These are general guidelines for home after your surgery. Your doctor may give you other instructions based on your needs and situation.

After Your Surgery

You may have some of the following symptoms after your surgery. Here are ways to help you manage.

Abdominal swelling, constipation or bloating

  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes after your surgery. Wear pants with a relaxed elastic waist and shoes you can slip on easily.
  • Constipation is common after surgery. It may take 4 to 5 days after your surgery to have a bowel movement. Take your stool softener as ordered by your doctor. Your bowel movements should be soft with no straining. If passing stool is difficult, try Milk of Magnesia and follow the directions on the package. You may also try over-the-counter Dulcolax suppositories or Fleet enemas.
  • Hemorrhoids are common after surgery. Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in your rectum that may cause you discomfort or pain. Try to keep paper flat when you wipe. Over- the-counter hemorrhoid products and baby wipes can help with discomfort. If this does not help, call your doctor.

Weight Gain

  • You may have a short-term weight gain due to fluid changes and gas. Your weight should return to normal about 7 to 14 days after your surgery.

.Bruising Around the Incision Area

  • It is normal to have some bruising near your incision sites. Your bruising will go away over time.
  • You may have a small amount of clear to light bloody drainage from your incision sites. Call your doctor if the drainage smells bad or changes color.

Going Home with a Urinary Catheter

If you go home with a urinary catheter (foley) in place, you may notice that you have bloody drainage around your catheter or in your urine after activity or a bowel movement. This drainage should lessen after you rest and drink more fluids. Call your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Clots in your urine
  • No urine output for 3 to 4 hours
  • An increase in your pain

Bladder Spasms

  • Bladder spasms are common after surgery. You may feel mild to severe bladder pain and cramping or have an urgent need to urinate or burning when you urinate. If these symptoms do not go away, call your doctor.

Lower Leg, Ankle or Foot Swelling

After surgery, you may have swelling in your legs, ankles or feet. To help reduce your swelling, raise your legs above your heart when you sit or lie down. Call your doctor right away if you have:

  • Pain in your lower legs (calves)
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Blisters or if fluid leaks from the swollen area
  • One leg becomes larger or more painful than the other leg

Activity After Surgery

  • Walk around during the day. This will help with your recovery and healing. You may do as much walking or stair climbing as you can tolerate. Slowly increase your activity to the level you were before surgery. Wait 6 weeks before you jog or run.
  • Do not sit in one position for more than 45 minutes.
  • Do not ride a bike, motorcycle, or horse for 6 weeks.
  • Do not use yard and garden equipment for 6 weeks.
  • Do not lift more than 3 pounds during the first week after surgery. Do not lift more than 10 pounds for 6 weeks.
  • You may shower after surgery. You do not need to cover your surgical incisions when you shower. Gently wash the area with soap and water and pat dry.
  • Do not take tub baths or use swimming pools or hot tubs for 4 weeks after surgery.
  • Do not drive for 2 weeks after your surgery.
  • Do not drive if you are taking opioid pain medicine for your pain.

Eating After Surgery

  • Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, drink 8 to 10 cups of non-caffeinated fluid each day to stay hydrated.
  • Eat small meals during the day.
  • Try to eat high fiber foods (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains).
  • Do not drink carbonated drinks or eat foods that cause gas (beans and broccoli).
  • Limit foods that can cause constipation (pastas and dairy products).

Medicines After Surgery

  • You may restart your daily medicines after you leave the hospital. Talk to your doctor about when you can restart aspirin or any blood thinning medicines such as Coumadin.
  • Your doctor will order pain medicine for you. You may need to take this medicine for a few days at home to help with pain.
  • Continue to take a stool softener after your surgery. Your pain medicines may cause constipation.


Follow-up Appointments

  • A doctor or nurse will review the results of your surgery with you at your follow-up appointment. They will also talk with you about your recovery and how you feel.
  • You may need to have blood tests and other testing done before your appointment. If testing is done at a hospital or clinic other than The James, bring a copy of all test results with you.


Returning to Work

If your job does not require strenuous activity, you may go back to work in 2 to 4 weeks. If your job requires heavy lifting, you may need to wait 6 weeks. Your doctor will talk with you about when you can return to work based on the type of work you do.

  • If you need a return to work letter from your doctor, please call your doctor’s office.
  • If you need to complete FMLA paperwork, please give this paperwork to your doctor’s office to fill out.


When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • A fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or higher
  • A sudden change in lower back pain or abdominal pain that is not relieved by your pain medicine
  • Problems with vomiting, diarrhea, extreme nausea or belching
  • Blood in your urine
  • A problem with constipation that lasts longer than 1 week after your surgery



© March 14, 2018. The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

This handout is for informational purposes only. Talk with your doctor or health care team if you have any questions about your care.

For more health information, call the Patient and Family Resource Center at 614-366-0602 or visit