October 8, 2021

Post surgical Red Flags


Katie Rogers SPT

Read Time

5 min

Post Op Patient Safety at Imagine Physical Therapy


Post Op Red Flags

Here at Imagine Physical Therapy, the safety of our patients is our utmost priority. When you come to Imagine for physical therapy after surgery, your physical therapist will monitor your healing and check for red flags. Red flags are signs or symptoms that healthcare providers use to determine if there may be a complication that needs treatment right away. Some complications that may occur after surgery include infection, deep vein thrombosis, and pulmonary embolism. If your physical therapist recognizes any red flags while you are at therapy, they will refer you to a doctor or call for emergency medical attention. We have included more information below about each of these complications so that you can monitor yourself at home, too!


Infection and Scar Healing

At physical therapy, your therapist will check your incision site for signs of an infection or poor healing. This is particularly important if you have any risk factors for infection including having diabetes, obesity, taking an immunosuppressant medication, being >50 years old, or taking a corticosteroid for a prolonged time.1 The common signs for infection include fever, chills, redness of the skin, fatigue, tenderness over the area, or fluid draining from the area that is not clear and has an odor.1,2 If you or your physical therapist suspect you may have an infection, you should consult your doctor for treatment. 


Deep Vein Thrombosis and Pulmonary Embolism

Your physical therapist will also monitor you for signs of a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or a pulmonary embolism (PE). A DVT is a blood clot in one of the deep veins in your body, usually in the legs. This can be life threatening if the clot breaks free and travels to your heart or lungs causing a PE. Symptoms that may indicate a DVT include swelling, redness, and tenderness in your legs.3 Symptoms that may indicate a PE include chest pain, shortness of breath, cough, dizziness, tiredness, fainting, and excessive sweating.4,5 There is a greater risk of a DVT or PE following surgery, especially if you were unable to move around very much after surgery.4,6 If you or your physical therapist suspect you may have a blood clot, you should call 911.


We have touched on a few of the more common complications from surgery and their general signs and symptoms. Following your surgery, if you notice these signs or symptoms, you should seek medical treatment. When you come to physical therapy at Imagine following your surgery, you can be sure that your therapist is watching for complications and will help you seek the appropriate treatment if necessary. For all your physical therapy needs, contact our team at Imagine to make an appointment today! 


1.     Cranendonk DR, Lavrijsen APM, Prins JM, Wiersinga WJ. Cellulitis: current insights into pathophysiology and clinical management. Neth J Med. 2017 Nov;75(9):366-378. PMID: 29219814.

2.     Ovington LG. Dealing with drainage: the what, why, and how of wound exudate. Home Healthc Nurse. 2002 Jun;20(6):368-74. doi: 10.1097/00004045-200206000-00013. PMID: 12055524.

3.     Dybowska M, Tomkowski WZ, Kuca P, Ubysz R, Jóźwik A, Chmielewski D. Analysis of the accuracy of the Wells scale in assessing the probability of lower limb deep vein thrombosis in primary care patients practice. Thromb J. 2015 Jun 4;13:18. doi: 10.1186/s12959-015-0050-4. PMID: 26045696; PMCID: PMC4455328.

4.     Kline JA. Diagnosis and Exclusion of Pulmonary Embolism. Thromb Res. 2018 Mar;163:207-220. doi: 10.1016/j.thromres.2017.06.002. Epub 2017 Jun 7. PMID: 28683951.

5.     Miniati M, Cenci C, Monti S, Poli D. Clinical presentation of acute pulmonary embolism: survey of 800 cases. PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e30891. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030891

6.     McLendon K, Goyal A, Bansal P, et al. Deep Venous Thrombosis Risk Factors. [Updated 2021 Apr 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470215/?report=classic