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The recovery process is divided into three phases:

Phase 1 Recovery
Phase 1 begins immediately after surgery when the patient is transported to the recovery room, or post anesthesia care unit (PACU). Patients arrive in Phase 1 with oxygen being administered by a facemask or by nasal prongs. The intravenous (IV) will still be in place.

The monitoring in Phase 1 is similar to that used in the operating room. The PACU nurses will monitor your vital signs (blood pressure, respirations, pulse rate, and oxygen saturation) for any changes. Assessment of pain (also known as the "fifth vital sign") is of primary importance here.

Pain management begins prior to surgery and continues in the recovery process. The PACU nurses closely monitor pain scores and will assess the effectiveness of the pain therapy and the patient's response to any changes in therapy.

Side effects due to surgery and anesthesia will also be assessed and treated quickly. These include nausea, decreased temperature, and emotional responses. The recovery nurses will also be checking your surgical site and monitoring your level of consciousness.

The length of time you will stay in Phase I recovery will depend on the type of anesthesia administered to you. The following list estimates time in Phase 1 recovery for specific anesthesia types.

Anesthesia Phase 1 Time

MAC (Monitored Anesthesia Care)

60 minutes

General Anesthesia

75 minutes

Spinal or Epidural Anesthesia

1-4 hours

For children under the age of 16, an exception is made to allow one parent to provide additional comfort and support during Phase 1 Recovery.

Phase 2 Recovery
When you have satisfactorily recovered in Phase 1, you will be transferred to Phase 2. The average length of stay in Phase II is 15 to 30 minutes.

Phase 2 emphasizes the transition to readiness for discharge home. Certain criteria must be satisfied prior to discharge. In general criteria are as follows:

  • Vital signs must be stable and within normal range
  • Nausea and pain must be controlled
  • Oral intake (liquids) must be well tolerated

Other criteria may be applied to particular patients or types of surgery/anesthesia (such as the ability to walk following spinal anesthesia or the ability to urinate).

After graduating from Phase 2, patients receive post-operative instructions, as well as prescriptions for medication (if required). The patient may then be transported home with a responsible adult.

Patients then complete their recovery in the familiar and comfortable environment of their own home.