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What do You Need to Know About Surgery

Understand Your Options

With everything that’s going through your mind after you’ve been told that you may need a surgical procedure, it’s important to focus and think through your options. Is surgery your only choice or are there alternatives? If you do need surgery, do you need it now or can you — and should you — wait? Are there different surgical procedures to choose from? Discuss details of your treatment options with your doctor, scheduling more than one consultation if necessary.

Select an Experienced Surgical Team

With your primary care doctor’s help, choose an experienced surgeon and a facility that specializes in performing operations for your particular condition. In addition to working with a qualified surgeon, scheduling your procedure in a hospital that does a high volume of the surgical procedures you’re having is also important to ensure a successful surgery. A recent study showed that hospitals where many cancer surgeries were performed had better survival rates than hospitals where fewer surgeries were done.

Follow Pre-Surgery Prep Instructions

In the time leading up to your surgical procedure, be sure to take good care of yourself and follow your doctor’s advice. Surgery puts stress on the body, so the stronger you are physically, the better you’ll handle it. Even the most qualified surgeon would prefer to operate on a healthy patient, so get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, and if you smoke, stop for at least two weeks prior to your surgery. Also follow your doctor’s directions when it comes to taking or stopping medications before your operation.

Timing Is Everything With Surgery

A study conducted at Duke University found that the lowest incidence of complications and errors related to anesthesia and pain management occurred with procedures conducted on weekdays at 9 a.m. That said, the complications that occurred at other times were relatively minor. Perhaps the most important aspect of timing is not putting it off — don’t wait too long to get needed surgery. Delaying surgery after you and your doctor have agreed that you’re ready for the procedure may allow your condition to worsen, which can increase your risk of surgical complications.

Rally During Recovery

After the operation, your real work begins — recovering from surgery. While you’re still recovering in the hospital, you’ll be groggy and may be easily confused. Having an advocate, usually a family member, who knows you and knows what to expect following the surgical procedure can be helpful. Arrange for your advocate to be informed of your progress during and after surgery. Once you are released from the hospital, have that person or someone else watch over you for at least the next 48 hours.

Home-Sweet-Home Treatment

Before your release from the hospital and through subsequent visits with your doctor, keep asking specific questions about the care you need to avoid surgical complications. This might include what to do about potential side effects of medications you’ve been given, if you should follow any dietary restrictions, and how to spot early signs of infection. Take your caregiver or loved one with you to your follow-up appointments and ask him or her to take notes. Be sure you both understand the instructions you’re given.