What Is Post-Operative Bleeding

By Dr Jake Lim – Plastic Surgeon | Updated: December 11, 2023

Essential Tips for a Safe Recovery – Post-Operative Bleeding

When you’ve had surgery, one of the things you need to be aware of as you recover at home is the possibility of post-operative bleeding. This is when your surgical site leaks blood after the operation. It’s not something that happens to everyone, but it can occur during the healing process. Knowing what to do if bleeding starts is important. It helps you stay calm and take the right steps to manage the situation effectively. Remember, being prepared is not just about peace of mind; it’s about your health and ensuring your recovery stays on track.

In this blog, Sydney Plastic Surgeon Dr Jake Lim will go through what you need to keep an eye on, the do’s and don’ts if bleeding occurs, and how to tell if it’s time to call for medical help.

Bleeding after the Surgery

After you’ve had surgery, your body starts the complex process of healing. Part of this process can sometimes involve post-operative bleeding. This is when blood leaks out from the site of your surgery. It’s not unusual, but it’s something you need to be aware of and know how to handle.

There are a few different types of post-operative bleeding you might hear about:

  • Primary bleeding happens during or right after your surgery. It’s what your surgical team works to control before you even wake up
  • Reactionary bleeding can occur in the first few hours after your surgery. It’s usually due to your blood pressure returning to normal and dislodging a blood clot that had formed
  • Secondary bleeding might happen days or even weeks after surgery. It’s often due to an infection or a blood vessel that re-opens

Now, it’s normal for a wound to ooze a little bit of blood, especially in the first few hours after surgery. But when we talk about abnormal bleeding, we mean bleeding that’s heavy or doesn’t stop. This kind of bleeding can soak through your bandage and require additional care.

Causes and Risk Factors

Understanding why post-operative bleeding might happen is a key part of being prepared. Several factors can increase the likelihood of this happening to you.

Common causes of post-operative bleeding include:

  • The body’s natural response: Your body is designed to stop bleeding through clotting. Sometimes, this process can be interrupted or not work as well as it should, leading to bleeding
  • Surgical site issues: If the area where you had your surgery is bumped or strained, it might start to bleed

Patient-related risk factors:

  • Age: Older adults may experience bleeding more often because their blood vessels can be more fragile
  • Sex: Depending on the type of surgery, men and women might have different risks for bleeding
  • Genetics: Some people have inherited conditions that affect how their blood clots, which can lead to more bleeding

Surgery-related risk factors:

  • Type of surgery: Some surgeries, like those involving major organs or large blood vessels, have a higher risk of bleeding
  • Duration: Longer surgeries can increase the risk simply because there’s more time for something to disrupt the clotting process
  • Technique: The way your surgery was done, including the skill of the surgeon and the methods used, can affect bleeding risk

Medication-related risk factors

  • Anticoagulants: These are medications that prevent blood clots and can increase bleeding risk. They’re often called blood thinners
  • Antiplatelet agents: These medications stop blood cells called platelets from sticking together, which is another way they can increase bleeding risk

If you’re taking any medications, it’s important to discuss with Dr Lim how they might affect your surgery and recovery. And if you have any personal or family history of bleeding problems, make sure your surgical team knows about it well before your operation. This way, they can plan to manage your risk.

Excessive Bleeding after Surgery – Diagnosis and Detection

If you’re worried about bleeding after your surgery, there are certain signs you should watch for. Detecting post-operative bleeding early can make a big difference in how it’s treated and how well you recover.

Clinical signs of post-operative bleeding include

  • Visible bleeding: This is the most obvious sign. If you see blood soaking through your bandages or new bleeding starting, it’s a clear indicator
  • Swelling at the surgical site: Some swelling is normal, but if it increases rapidly, it could be due to bleeding under the skin
  • Pain: An increase in pain or a new, sharp pain that’s not relieved by your usual pain medication can be a sign of internal bleeding
  • Feeling faint or dizzy: Losing a lot of blood can cause you to feel light-headed or like you might pass out
  • A drop in blood pressure: You might not be able to measure this at home, but it’s something to be aware of if you’re feeling unwell

Monitoring techniques during the post-operative period

When you’re at home, keep a close eye on your surgical site. Here’s what you can do:

  • Regularly check your bandages: Look for any signs of fresh bleeding
  • Keep track of your pain levels and any swelling: Write down what’s normal for you so you can notice if there’s a change
  • Stay aware of how you’re feeling overall: If you start to feel unwell, don’t ignore it

If you’re ever unsure about your symptoms or what you should do, it’s best to get in touch with your medical team. They’re there to help you through your recovery and will want to know if you’re having any issues.

How to Prevent Excessive Bleeding after Plastic Surgery

Preventing post-operative bleeding starts well before you enter the operating theatre. There are steps both you and your healthcare team can take to reduce the risk.

Pre-operative assessment and planning

Before surgery, Dr Lim will assess your health to identify any potential risks for bleeding. This includes:

  • Reviewing your medical history and any medications you’re taking
  • Conducting a physical examination and ordering blood tests to check your clotting ability

Patient education and preparation

You play a big role in preventing post-operative bleeding by:

  • Understanding and following Dr Lim’s instructions on medication use before and after surgery
  • Knowing what activities to avoid to prevent putting strain on your surgical site
  • Recognising the signs of bleeding so you can act quickly if it happens

Being well-prepared and informed is your best defence against post-operative bleeding. If you have any concerns or questions, don’t hesitate to ask Dr Lim.

Treatment Options for Post-Op Bleeding

If you’re faced with post-operative bleeding, knowing how to respond can make a significant difference. Here’s what you need to know about treating it, from first-aid measures to more advanced medical interventions.

Immediate measures and first-aid

  • Apply pressure: For visible bleeding, press a clean cloth or sterile dressing firmly over the site
  • Elevate the area: If possible, raise the bleeding part of your body above the level of your heart
  • Stay calm: Keeping your heart rate down can help reduce the bleeding

Surgical interventions for severe bleeding

In some cases, you might need to return to surgery so that the source of the bleeding can be found and stopped. This is typically for more serious bleeding that can’t be controlled with simpler measures.

Non-surgical management

  • Medication adjustments: If you’re on blood thinners or other medications that could be contributing to the bleeding, your doctor may adjust your doses
  • Pressure techniques: Besides applying pressure manually, your doctor might use bandages or compression devices to help control the bleeding

Always follow your doctor’s advice on how to manage post-operative bleeding. If the bleeding is severe or you’re unsure about what to do, seek medical help immediately.

FAQs about Post-Operative Bleeding


What should I consider normal bleeding after surgery?

  • Normal bleeding can include a small amount of oozing or spotting at the surgical site, especially within the first few hours after surgery. If the bleeding is minimal and can be contained with a small bandage, it’s often considered normal. However, if you notice the bleeding is persistent, soaking through the bandage, or increasing in volume, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider.

How can I tell if I’m bleeding too much?

  • Excessive bleeding might be indicated by blood that is pulsing or spurting out, continuous soaking through bandages, dizziness, weakness, or a rapid pulse. If the surgical site swells quickly or you’re experiencing significant pain, these can also be signs of too much bleeding. In such cases, seek medical attention immediately.

Can I take my regular medications after surgery?

  • You should discuss your current medications with Dr Jake Lim before and after the operation. Some medications, especially blood thinners or anti-inflammatory drugs, can increase the risk of bleeding. Dr Lim will advise you on which medications to continue, adjust, or temporarily stop.

When should I call a doctor or go to the emergency room for post-operative bleeding?

  • Call a doctor or go to the emergency room if you experience heavy bleeding that doesn’t stop with direct pressure, if you feel faint or dizzy, if there’s a rapid swelling at the surgical site, or if you have any other concerns about the amount of bleeding. It’s always better to err on the side of caution with post-operative complications.

What can I do to prevent post-operative bleeding?

  • To help prevent post-operative bleeding, follow all pre- and post-surgery instructions from your plastic surgeon, including guidelines on activity restrictions and wound care. Avoid strenuous activities and lifting heavy objects. Also, ensure good nutrition to support healing and discuss any supplements or natural remedies with your plastic surgeon, as some can affect bleeding risk.

Further Reading about Plastic Surgery with Dr Jake Lim

Medical References about Post-Operative Bleeding

About Dr Jake Lim

Highly qualified and experienced specialist plastic surgeon Dr Jake Lim focuses on facial plastic, cosmetic breast and body contouring after significant weight loss

Dr Lim creates the best possible plastic surgery results for his Australia-wide and international patients.

Dr Lim is passionate about making sure each and every patient has access to the right information about available treatments and procedures and is able to make well-informed decisions.

At My Klinik, patient safety, education and achieving optimal results are our top priorities.