Having your operation for carcinoid
This page tells you about having an operation for carcinoid (a neuroendocrine tumour).
Having your operation for carcinoid
The type of operation you have depends on where the carcinoid tumour is in your body. The following information may not apply to all operations. Some operations will be larger than others and take you longer to get over.
Before your operation your surgeon and anaesthetist will explain what is going to happen during the surgery. A physiotherapist will teach you breathing and leg exercises to do after your operation. This is to help prevent chest infections and blood clots. You may also have injections under the skin to reduce the risk of developing a blood clot.
After your operation
When you wake up you may have several tubes in place. These will include one to drain your wound, and a drip to give you fluids. You may also have a tube (catheter) to drain your urine and a tube down your nose into your stomach to drain fluids.
You will almost certainly have some pain for the first few days. But this is usually well controlled with painkillers. It is important to tell the nurse or doctor as soon as possible if you have any pain. They can then find the right type and dose of painkiller for you.
After surgery to your digestive tract, you gradually start drinking and eating afterwards. You usually start with sips of water, and gradually increase until you are able to eat a light diet and then a normal diet. You will probably be ready to go home about 5 to 7 days after your operation.
You can view and print the quick guides for all the pages in the treating carcinoid section.
When you are seen in the outpatient clinic before your operation, your surgeon will explain what is going to happen during the surgery. During this appointment or when you are admitted to the hospital for your operation, you will also talk to an anaesthetist, physiotherapist and nurse. The physiotherapist will teach you breathing and leg exercises to do after your operation.
Ask as many questions as you need to. It may help to make a list of questions to ask your doctor beforehand.
Before your operation you will need
- Blood tests to check your general health, and liver and kidney function
- A chest X-ray to check that your lungs are healthy
- An ECG to check that your heart is healthy
You may have had some of these tests when your cancer was diagnosed. If so, you may not have to repeat them. You may also have
- Breathing tests (called lung function tests)
- An ECG while you are exercising
These tests make sure that you are fit enough to make a good recovery from your surgery.
The type of operation you have depends on where the carcinoid tumour is in your body. As there are a number of different operations, the following information may not apply to them all. Some operations will be larger than others and take you longer to recover.
Below is a short video showing breathing and circulation exercises after surgery. Click on the arrow to watch it.
View a transcript of the video showing breathing and circulation exercises after surgery (opens in new window)
To start with, you are likely to have several different tubes in place
- A drip (intravenous infusion) into your arm to give you fluids until you are eating and drinking
- One or more tubes from your wound (called wound drains) to drain away any fluid that collects and help the wound to heal
- A small tube for painkillers, going into the fluid around your spine (an epidural)
You may also have
- A tube into your bladder (catheter) to drain urine
- A tube down your nose into your stomach (nasogastric tube) to drain fluids and stop you being sick
Your nurses will encourage you to get up and about as soon as possible after your operation. But some carcinoid operations are major surgery and you may have to stay in bed for the first day or so. You will also need to do your breathing and leg exercises regularly to help stop chest infections and blood clots. Both these complications of surgery can happen if you are not able to move around as much as you would normally. You may have injections under the skin to reduce the risk of developing a blood clot.
You will almost certainly have some pain for the first few days after your operation. But this can usually be well controlled with painkillers. It is important that you tell the nurse or doctor as soon as possible if you have any pain. They can then find the right type and dose of painkiller for you. Painkillers work best when you take them regularly, so it is important to take them as prescribed by your doctor or nurse. Having your pain well controlled will also help you to do your exercises and to get up and about. So good pain control will help you to get better more quickly.
For some types of surgery you may have a tube going into the area around your spinal cord to give painkillers (an epidural). Or you may have painkillers going into your drip for the first few days. You will have a button to press to give a higher dose of the painkiller if you need it. This is called patient controlled analgesia (PCA).
If you have had surgery to any part of your digestive system, you will gradually build up your drinking and eating afterwards. You start with sips of water and build up to a light diet. You are normally able to eat a normal diet after a few days. The speed at which you are able to build up your food and drink depends on where in the body you have had your surgery. You may be encouraged to eat and drink as soon as possible after surgery.
If you have had lung surgery you should also be able to eat and drink normally within a couple of days.
When you come round, you will have dressings on your wounds. Your nurse will leave them on for a couple of days. Then they will change the dressings and clean the wound.
The wound drains stay in until they stop draining fluid. Generally this is about 3 to 7 days after your operation. Most surgeons these days use stitches that dissolve once your wound has healed. But if you have stitches or clips that have to be removed, they will be left in for around 10 days. If you are well enough, you can go home with the stitches or clips still in. A nurse will take them out for you. This may be at your GP practice, at home or in the hospital. Before you go home the nurse will give you information about how to care for the wound.
Many bowel surgery units and some lung surgery units have specialist nurses who can
- Give you advice and support
- Make the arrangements for you to go home
- Book your follow up appointments before you go
Your nurse will make sure you have a phone number so you can ring if you are worried or need advice after you get home. Some specialist colorectal (bowel) nurses will visit you at home, but not all are able to do this.
You will probably be ready to go home about 5 to 7 days after your operation. You will have an outpatient appointment made before you leave the ward. The appointment is usually 6 weeks after your operation. If you have a colostomy, a stoma nurse may arrange to see you at home.
Tell the nurses when you first go into hospital if you live alone, or if you might have difficulty managing after your operation. They can make arrangements for help when you go home.
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