What to Expect After Surgery

A prostatectomy is major surgery from which your body needs time to recover. Your physician at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center will discuss the details of your recovery with you.

Typically patients stay in the hospital overnight after surgery and then need to recuperate at home for a month before returning to your normal daily routine. Most men can start to drive a few weeks after surgery. You should avoid heavy lifting for several weeks after surgery. It usually takes about six weeks for most men to feel back to normal.

This page provides general information about what you can expect in the first hours and days right after surgery. You may also want to read more about How Diet and Exercise Can Help You

Pain Control

While you are in the hospital, you will probably be given pain medication by mouth and through a vein (intravenously) in your hand or arm. Your physician also will probably give you a prescription for a pain medication that you can take at home once you are released from the hospital. Most patients can manage pain at home with acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil).


The combination of anesthesia, lessened activity and narcotic pain medicine often creates problems with bowel function. You may be prescribed stool softeners or laxatives. Drinking fluids, walking and eating frequent, small, easily digestible meals and fruit will help relieve constipation.


You may experience fluid weight gain and swelling after surgery. This is usually the result of getting fluids during surgery as well as having lymph nodes removed during surgery, which temporarily lessens the ability of your body to manage fluids. This may result in swelling in your legs, lower abdomen and scrotum.


When you wake up after surgery you will have a urinary catheter. This is a tube inserted through your urethra into your bladder to drain urine. The catheter will be connected to a bag that is taped to your leg.

Your nurse will show you how to handle the catheter before you leave the hospital. You will probably need to keep the catheter for a week or two; it will be removed during a visit to the clinic.

Once you have your catheter removed, talk with your treatment team about when you can start doing Kegel exercises to strengthen your pelvic-floor muscles and help prevent or reduce incontinence (inability to control urine flow). It is best to start, and easier to learn, these exercises before surgery and then to resume them after your catheter comes out. Learn more about Kegels on our page about exercise for men with prostate cancer.

Abdominal Drain

With removal of lymph nodes, you may have an abdominal drain to handle fluid that might collect in your abdomen. The tube will stay in place while you are in the hospital. It drains away any lymph or urine that may temporarily leak into your pelvis. Usually your physician will remove this drain before you leave the hospital. But some men will leave the hospital with the drain and have it removed about a week later.

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