to Prepare for Surgery
stress of surgery, you may neglect to plan for it properly. There's a
lot you can do to make sure your operation and recovery go as smoothly
as possible. Here are some suggestions:
- Learn as much as
possible about your surgical procedure. Have your doctor explain
exactly what the surgical process is and why surgery is necessary. Get
a second opinion if you haven't already. Some people get queasy
discussing surgery, but many find that they relax as they gain
information. If your doctor is not willing to take the time to discuss
the procedure with you, find another one. There's a wealth of
information online that will help you ask the right questions.
- Be sure you
understand all the risks and benefits of your surgery, as well as
potential risks if you choose not to have the procedure done.
- Discuss timing
issues with your doctor: Do you need surgery in the immediate future
or can you safely wait a few weeks? How difficult is it to get a
surgery date? Assess your work and family schedule, and determine what
is the most favorable period given your other commitments.
- Bring someone
with you to presurgical appointments to take notes. If this is
impossible, bring a portable tape recorder. You'll hear a lot of
information in a very short time, and it can be hard to digest and
remember all the medical terms.
- Ask for
preoperative and post discharge checklists and other materials in
writing at this time. Get postoperative prescriptions filled ahead of
surgery so you won't have to wait at the pharmacy or send someone out.
(And you won't risk having the medication be unavailable.) Taking care
of meds now will also give you time to work out any insurance copay
issues. Buy dressings, ointments or gauze, and rent special equipment
(hospital bed, wheelchair) ahead of time too.
- Call your health
insurance company. Be sure that your operation is covered and
preauthorized, and that you're following all the procedures required
by the insurance company. You don't want a surprise bill to come in
information about expected recovery time from your doctor, and from
friends who have had similar procedures. Visualize life during your
recuperation. Will you be able to get around your house and office by
yourself or will you need to line up help? Will you be able to drive?
Be sure to factor in the effect of medications that may make driving
unsafe and possibly illegal.
- Hire help if
necessary. Ask your insurance provider if your treatments or
conditions qualify you to have in-home care covered. Set up help with
child care and housework as well.
- Be realistic
about how much energy and enthusiasm you will have following surgery.
You may not be in the mood for dinner dates, a new work assignment or
even movies for a while. Set up and enforce visiting hours (or ask
your spouse or friend to act as enforcer) so you can get needed rest.
arrangements for a ride to and from the hospital, since any surgery
requiring anesthesia will render you unable to drive yourself home.
Line up a few helpers to be available during your first few days after
surgery. You may also need help running errands, picking up
prescriptions and driving to follow-up appointments.
- Choose one
trusted person to help you make medical decisions. Listening to a
committee of family and friends is likely to be stressful and
- Know your
rehabilitation and physical therapy plan ahead of time. Commit to
following it. Slacking off on your rehab is the surest way to have a
- Have your
financial affairs, your will and all legal documents in good order in
case the worst happens. Ask your doctor or a patient advocate at the
hospital if you need to complete a durable power of attorney for
health-care decisions. See 244 Make a Will and 245 Execute a Power of
Day of Surgery:
yourself by name to your surgeon. This helps ensure that no mistakes
are made about your identity and why you're there.
- Mark your
surgery site with an indelible pen. Many hospitals follow this
procedure and will ask you to do this as you enter surgery. For
example, if the operation is to occur on your left knee, mark a large
X on that knee, or follow the surgeon's instructions.
- Inform the
surgical staff completely about medications you are already taking,
including nonprescription drugs, herbal supplements, vitamins and the
dosages. Also inform them of any allergies.
- Have someone
stay at the hospital during your surgery. He or she can phone your
family and friends as needed, collect information for you and watch
- Do not let the
hospital send you home if you don't feel ready. Ask for help from the
patient advocate if you feel pressured.
- As the old
saying goes, minor surgery is surgery that happens to somebody else.
Expect any surgery to be a big deal, even a procedure that sounds
trivial, such as getting wisdom teeth pulled. Give yourself a day or
two to rest and heal after even a seemingly small procedure.
- If your surgery
is in any way related to your inactive lifestyle, consider it a wakeup
- Make sure both
your physician and the hospital are participants in your network if
you have a PPO.
- Hospitals have
discovered that the risk of infection related to surgery drops
significantly when a few simple procedures are followed. Hair around a
surgical site is clipped, not shaved, to prevent micro breaks in the
skin. For major invasive surgeries, antibiotics should be started by
injection 60 minutes prior to surgery and ended 24 hours after to
maximize their effectiveness.
- The purpose of
getting a second opinion is not so much to get a different opinion as
it is to increase your knowledge. The more information you can gather
(and understand) the better you'll be able to make informed decisions.
- There are no
risk-free procedures. Modern hospital techniques are very safe, but
everything entails a risk. The more you know, the better decisions you
can make about your treatment.
- Make sure health
professionals wash their hands and put on a fresh pair of gloves every
time they walk into your room. Cross-infection is all too easy in a
- Receiving the
incorrect dosage or type of medication is one of the most common
mistakes at hospitals. Ask for a list of all your medications and
dosages, as well as who prescribed them: your doctor or a resident.
- If you're
diabetic, you already know being sick can wildly throw off your blood
sugar levels. Receiving medication intravenously, as well as an
irregular meal schedule, can contribute to this. Work with the nursing
team to keep your levels steady.