Fevers after surgery

Running a low grade fever after surgery is common and usually simple to alleviate. There is a simple way to remember the most common causes: Remember the ‘Five W’s’:


Right after surgery most people spend time resting and don’t take full breaths. Pain medications also tend to decrease the depth of your breath. This leads to small parts of your lungs not completely filling with air. It is the collapse of these passages that can cause a fever (medical term: atelectasis) Spend a few minutes each hour taking slow long deep breaths. Stand up or sit up tall. Fill your lungs with air. This will fill up these areas in your lung and help get rid of the fever.


A urinary tract infection can occur in patients who have needed a catheter placed in their bladder for a surgery. This usually doesn’t occur until a few days after a procedure. Other symptoms may include a sense of urgency and frequency to urinate, as well as pain with urination. Let your surgeon know if you have any of these and an antibiotic may be needed.

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Being sedentary is never good, especially after surgery. Blood clots can result from the lack of activity and cause pain and fever. You should call your doctor with any calf pain right away.


Look at your incision – how does it look? Wound infections usually take a few days to get going. Drainage that continues after a few days and don’t go away completely may be concerning and should be reported to your surgeon.

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Some medications can cause a fever. Again, as always, ask your doctor about this.