Your Care at Home after a Neck Dissection
What to Expect
You can expect an incision and drainage tube(s) on the affected side of your neck. Drainage tubes are removed about 1 - 2 days after surgery. There is a chance of some numbness, tingling, or decreased feeling in the jaw or neck. Because of this, be careful around extremes of hot and cold. Heating pads and hair dryers should be used with caution. Also, wear extra clothes to protect against frostbite. Be careful when shaving. There may be some pain after surgery. For relief, use your pain pills as prescribed. You can expect a decrease in range of motion and muscle strength and may notice drooping of the affected shoulder. Your doctor may want you to do muscle exercises to strengthen your neck and shoulder. Your doctor will advise you about what he may want you to do and when to begin. A teaching guide will be given to you at that time to help you do the exercises the right way. Slight pain and aching in the shoulder may last for months.
What to Do
- For the next week, raise your head at least 30º when you lie down. Do not lie flat in bed. Use at least 2 pillows.
- Restrict your activity for 2 weeks. Avoid heavy exercise and activity such as jogging, aerobics, swimming, or lifting greater than 25 pounds.
- Check your wound for any signs of infection. Watch for redness, fever, swelling, pain, warmth at the site, or pus-like drainage.
- You may shower 24 hours after the drainage tube is removed.
When to Call Your Doctor
Please call your doctor if you notice:
- Bleeding that soaks a gauze dressing in 10 minutes or less and continues to soak dressings for one hour.
- Fever greater than 100.5° F when taken by mouth. Pain not relieved by medicine.
- Any signs of infection.
- Increased swelling of the neck area.
- Trouble breathing.
If you have any questions or problems once you are home, please call:
ENT Clinic, Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., at (608) 263-6190.
After 5:00 p.m. or weekends, the clinic number will give you the paging operator. Ask for the ENT doctor on-call. Leave your name, area code, and phone number. The doctor will call you back.
If you live out of the area, please call 1-800-323-8942.
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #7148.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 09/18/2013
Copyright © 09/18/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4500
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