PREPARING FOR YOUR SURGERY
Once you and your doctor decide that surgery may help you live a fuller, more active life, you’ll want to learn what to expect from the surgery and create a treatment plan for the best results. Preparing mentally and physically for surgery is an important step toward healing. Understanding the process and your role in it may help you recover more quickly and experience fewer problems.
Working with Your Doctor
Before surgery, your doctor will perform a complete physical examination to make sure you don’t have any conditions that could interfere with the surgery or the desired results. Routine tests such as blood tests and X-rays are usually performed a week before any major surgery.
- Discuss with your doctor what you can do to best prepare physically before your surgery. For example, if you are going to have joint-replacement surgery and you are overweight, losing weight before surgery will help decrease the stress you place on your new joint. However, you should not diet during the month before your surgery.
- Talk frankly with your surgeon. Learn what to expect before, during, and after surgery. Your questions may include:
- What is the process for being admitted to surgery?
- What type of anesthesia will I receive?
- If applicable, what type of implant or prosthesis will be used?
- How long will my recovery take?
- How will my pain be managed after surgery?
- Discuss with your surgeon and family physician about any medications you are taking to see which ones you should stop taking before surgery. For example, if you are taking aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications, Warfarin, Coumadin, or any other drugs that increase the risk of bleeding, you will need to stop taking them one week before surgery to minimize bleeding.
- Discuss with your doctor options for preparing for potential blood replacement, including donating your own blood, medical interventions, and other treatments.
- Report any infections to your surgeon. Surgery cannot be performed until all infections have cleared up.
- Do not hesitate to voice concerns or speak up if you do not understand something about your treatment.
Assemble Your Personal and Medical Information
During the weeks before your surgery, many people will ask about your insurance coverage, medical history, and legal arrangements. You may feel that you are answering the same questions over and over again, but this repetition is necessary to meet quality assurance and medical insurance guidelines.
Take time to put together a careful list of your personal and medical information. This will help speed the process and ensure that you provide your healthcare team with all the critical information needed for a successful surgery. Be sure that your list includes the following:
- All medications (prescription and over-the-counter), vitamins, and supplements you take including with their dosage and frequency. Your doctor may advise you to stop taking certain medications or supplements a week or two before your surgery.
- The name of your insurance company(s), along with the plan or group number and contact information. Please be sure to bring your insurance card(s) to the hospital with you.
- The name of a family member or friend who will come with you to doctor appointments, stay with you in the hospital, and help you to remember healthcare instructions.
- Names, addresses, and phone numbers for all the doctors you currently see and your reasons for seeing them.
- Any medical conditions or health problems you have, such as diabetes, asthma, anemia, or high blood pressure.
- A history of all previous operations you have undergone, even those not related to your current problem.
- Any allergies or adverse reactions you have had to drugs or anesthesia in the past. Provide the name of the drug, why you were taking it, a description of your reaction and when it occurred.
- Any dietary restrictions and food allergies.
- The advance directives you have made, such as a living will or durable power of attorney.
- If you smoke, you should stop or cut down to reduce your surgery risks and improve your recovery.
- Have any tooth, gum, bladder or bowel problems treated before surgery to reduce the risk of infection later.
- Eat a well-balanced diet, supplemented by a daily multivitamin with iron.
Other Preparations Before Surgery
- Arrange to have someone take you home as you will not be able to drive after surgery.
- Arrange for someone to help out at home with everyday tasks like cooking, shopping and laundry.
- Arrange items that you use often within easy reach before surgery so you won’t have to reach and bend as often.
- Remove all loose carpets and tape down electrical cords to avoid falls at home.
- Make sure you have a stable chair with a firm seat cushion, a firm back and two arms.
Preparing for After Surgery
If you are having outpatient surgery (not requiring a hospital stay overnight), remember the following:
- Do not drink or eat anything in the car on the trip home. The combination of anaesthesia, food, and car motion can quite often cause nausea or vomiting. You may want to have an emesis bag handy for the trip home.
- After arriving home, wait until you are hungry before trying to eat. Begin with a light meal and try to avoid greasy food for the first 24 hours
- If you had surgery on an extremity (leg, knee, hand or elbow), keep that extremity elevated and use ice as directed. This will help decrease swelling and pain
- Take your pain medicine as directed. Begin the pain medicine as you start getting uncomfortable, but before you are in severe pain. If you wait to take your pain medication until the pain is severe, you will have more difficulty controlling the pain.