Being told you need surgery can be scary, especially if it’s something you’ve never experienced before. It’s not abnormal to feel nervous about new situations, especially ones you know you have no control over. However, for some it can be enough to send them into full blown panic attacks. By explaining what to expect pre and post op, Dr. Ali Ghahary hopes to be able to help diminish that anxiety.
The First Steps
You know you need surgery – you even have a date. Now what? Below are some important steps to follow to help you better prepare for your upcoming procedure, and how you can make the experience a less stressful event for yourself.
1. Ask Questions. You’ve been told you require surgery, and you more than likely have a million questions running through your brain. ‘What do they do during the procedure?’, ‘How will I benefit from it?’, ‘How will I feel afterwards?’, ‘Will I need to take any time off work and/or school?’, ‘How soon can I go back to doing my normal, daily activities?’, ‘How risky is the procedure?’, ‘How long will it take before I am fully healed?’, and so on. These are all normal questions for anyone to have, and they’re questions you shouldn’t feel ashamed to ask as having answers is important and will not only help you take better care of yourself, but also put your mind at ease . While your surgeon or their staff are best equipped to handle questions such as these, family physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary can also help patients prepare and answer any general questions relating to pre and even post-operative care.
2. Don’t Google. When it comes to medical advice, looking information up online can be both a blessing and a curse. While the internet holds a plethora of helpful information, it also tends to give out worst-case scenarios as far as health and surgical procedures are concerned, and this can only increase your anxiety level. Therefore, if you’re someone who is more prone to anxiety and panic attacks, healthcare professionals strongly advise against looking up any type of medical procedure online or watching videos of procedures on YouTube. Instead, have a sit-down conversation with your surgeon or family physician and express your concerns to him or her.
3. Stay Healthy. Surgery can be hard on the body – even more so if you’re not healthy, so in the months following your procedure it’s important to spend as much time as possible staying active/physically fit, eating healthy, and getting enough sleep. Smoking can also have a negative impact on post-operative recovery, as anesthesia and tobacco use can lead to potential breathing problems – so, if you are a smoker, you should stop tobacco use at least 2 days prior to your procedure. Ideally, however, people wouldn’t and shouldn’t smoke at all. Dr. Ali Ghahary has put together a helpful list of smoking cessation tips here.
4. Medications. For individuals who require daily medications, many of those medications may be safe to take with a very small sip of water – even on the day of your surgery. However, some medications may need to be stopped. It’s important to let your surgeon know which medications you are taking so that they can not only document it in their own files, but make you aware of whether or not you need to stop taking certain medications – and, if so, for how long. NSAIDs, for example, should not be taking prior to surgery, and most surgeons and healthcare professionals recommend that these types of medications be stopped as much as one week prior to your procedure. This is because NSAIDs can increase the risk of excessive bleeding.
The Eve and Day of Surgery
The day of your surgery has arrived. You’ve taken the necessary steps leading up to your surgery, but what about the night before and day of?
1. Food and Drinks. It’s commonplace for patients to be told they cannot eat or drink anything before their procedure, and with good reason – especially if you’re going to be administered a general anesthetic. An anesthetic, which puts you to sleep, temporarily stops the body’s reflexes. If your stomach has any type of food or drink in it, there’s a risk that you might regurgitate that during the procedure and vomit, which can result in choking, and that could be fatal. The amount of time you will need to fast for will depend on the type of procedure you are having done. In some cases patients will need to fast for anywhere from 6 to 8 hours before the procedure, while some may be told to fast for 24 hours. Following surgery, the anesthetic is still in your system, and it’s not uncommon for some patients to feel nauseous, therefore you should avoid eating any heavy meals after your procedure to prevent vomiting.
2. Arriving at the Hospital. It’s important that you get to the hospital at the specific time you were given. While your surgery might be scheduled for 1:00 PM, you will most likely be told you need to arrive at the hospital a few hours prior to the procedure. This is to fill out any necessary paperwork. Surgeons and anesthesiologist also sometimes like to speak with patients prior to the procedure. Not arriving at the hospital at the specified time could result in your surgery being postponed to a later time or being moved to a different date all together. The time and date you were given was specific to you, so it’s important to be punctual.
After the Surgery
The surgery is done, now comes the recovery. Here are a few things you can expect.
1. Sore Throat. You have a horrible sore throat and there’s no reason why you should. Well, actually, there is. Once the anesthetic has been administered via an IV, a breathing tube (also known as an endotracheal tube) will be placed into your mouth and down into the entrance of your lungs. This is known as intubation. As general anesthesia puts you to sleep, you will require intubation in order to help you breathe as well as prevent gastric aspiration from occurring. As a result of that intubation, it’s not uncommon to experience some throat discomfort afterwards. This is temporary and will usually relieve itself within a few days, but you can suck on things like ice cips and lozenges to help speed things along.
2. Complications. Unfortunately, complications can sometimes arise after surgery. Infections are common in procedures that require incisions, and sometimes an infection will take several weeks before it is noticeable. Common signs of an infection include pain, redness, swelling and pus from the site of the incision. If you do notice this, it’s important to address this with your surgeons or family physician right away, as you will most likely require antibiotics to get rid of the infection.