Aim. This paper presents a concept analysis of the phenomenon of postoperative recovery.
Background. Each year, millions of patients throughout the world undergo surgical procedures. Although postoperative recovery is commonly used as an outcome of surgery, it is difficult to identify a standard definition.
Method. Walker and Avant's concept analysis approach was used. Literature retrieved from MEDLINE and CINAHL databases for English language papers published from 1982 to 2005 was used for the analysis.
Findings. The theoretical definition developed points out that postoperative recovery is an energy-requiring process of returning to normality and wholeness. It is defined by comparative standards, achieved by regaining control over physical, psychological, social and habitual functions, and results in a return to preoperative level of independence/dependency in activities of daily living and optimum level of psychological well-being.
Conclusion. The concept of postoperative recovery lacks clarity, both in its meaning in relation to postoperative recovery to healthcare professionals in their care for surgical patients, and in the understanding of what researchers in this area really intend to investigate. The theoretical definition we have developed may be useful but needs to be further explored.