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Post-operative physiotherapy advice

Following surgery there are a number of things that may limit or slow your child’s speed of recovery. These are:

General anaesthetic

A general anaesthetic can cause the lungs to become drier than normal making it difficult to clear secretions. These secretions could lead to small areas of lung collapse or infection.


Pain after an operation can slow your child’s recovery by making it hard to take deep breaths, cough and get out of bed. It is important to have proper pain relief, so ask the nursing staff for help if you feel your child can not take deep breaths, cough or get out of bed. It is important to do all of these to prevent lung collapse or infection.

Prolonged bed rest

Prolonged bed rest can cause your child to take small shallow breaths. It can also cause joints to become stiff, muscles to become weaker and increase the risk of VTE (venous thromboembolism) for older children.


The medications given after an operation can cause children to feel sick (nausea) which can limit deep breathing and mobility. Please discuss with your medical team if this is an issue for your child.

How can I help my child recover?


Encourage your child to sit up in bed as much as possible.

Encourage your child to take deep breaths and hold for up to 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times every hour that your child is awake.

Encourage young children to blow bubbles. They could blow through a straw or blow bubbles into a cup of water. This encourages deep breaths and helps with clearing secretion in their lungs.

After they have taken deep breaths, encourage your child to have a strong cough. A folded towel or small blanket can be used to support the wound, which can reduce pain when they cough.

Encourage your child to sit out of bed and take a small walk as soon as possible to increase lung volumes, aid secretion clearance, improve muscle strength and reduce the risk of VTE.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: OT25

Resource Type: Article

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