When you leave the hospital after pancreatic surgery, expect to be tired. Most patients return home being able to walk, use stairs, eat normal food and gradually return to normal activities. All of those things will come slowly, but you will notice an improvement from day to day and week to week. For patients who live alone or need more help in the transition, staying for a week in a sub-acute rehab facility is always an option. This can easily be arranged by our discharge planning team when you are recovering in the hospital. Whether you are at home or in rehab, it’s important to balance your rest with increasing activity. Walking and other light exercise helps to keep your lungs clear and prevents blood clots. Patients are allowed to use a treadmill, a stairclimber exercise machine, or other forms of cardiovascular exercise whenever they feel ready. We advise against lifting weights over 10-15 pounds during the first 6 weeks to allow healing of the incision.

Showers are allowed and often help to relax muscles and make patients generally feel better. Patients can begin to drive when they are off all narcotic pain medications (like Vicodin, Lortab, Tylenol with codeine, etc.) AND feel strong and alert enough to react safely. Family members should advise you on that decision.

In most cases, patients will return to follow-up in the office 2 weeks after surgery. We encourage ongoing communication and welcome calls or an earlier return visit if any concerns arise. For patients advised to undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy, treatment generally will not begin until 6 weeks after surgery. This will allow plenty of time for recovery and to meet with the medical and radiation oncologists to discuss details of the treatment, side effects, expectations and opportunities to participate in clinical trials. It is always helpful to include friends or family members in those office visits. Our nurse navigator, Carrie Callahan, will help to plan and schedule those appointments.

The right time to return to work after pancreatic surgery is highly variable and depends on individual needs and the nature of the job. For most patients, it is safe to assume that recovery will take a minimum of 4-6 weeks.