PREPARING FOR SURGERY
If you are planning to have a surgery, you will need to know some basic facts. Each type of operation—like each patient—differs a little. The steps vary with the setting and the nature of the surgery.
This pamphlet will discuss:
Things you can do to prepare for surgery.
What types of anaesthesia may be used.
Your recovery after the surgery.
Facing an operation can make you nervous. Knowing what to expect will help you feel more at ease.
Surgery does not always take place in a hospital. It may be done in a doctor’s office, surgical centre, or clinic. The patient arrives for surgery and returns home on the same day. This is also called ambulatory or one-day surgery.
There are things you can do before your surgery to help it go smoothly and help you heal quickly:
– If you smoke, stop smoking before your operation. Any period of not smoking helps. It is best if you quit at least 2 weeks before surgery, though. This is because general anaesthesia will change the normal function of your lungs for a short while. If you quit smoking:
– Your lungs will be in better shape before the operation
– You will adjust to the anaesthesia better
– Your lungs will be able to resume their normal function with less effort after surgery
– You won’t cough as much
– The risk of infection is less
– If you are taking medication, ask your doctor if you should keep taking it before or after the operation. Some medications should not be taken before an operation. Others may conflict with other medication your doctor may prescribe.
– Take it easy. Try not to get too tired in the days before and after your operation. Eat right and get proper rest and exercise. Any kind of surgery, no matter how minor, can be stressful.
You will be asked to arrive early to prepare for surgery. You should have an empty stomach before an operation. It is best not to eat or drink for 6-8 hours before your surgery. (If you have had something to eat or drink during this time, tell your doctor.) Leave jewellery and other things of value at home. If you wear jewellery, you will be asked to remove it before the operation. If you will be staying the night, bring only those items you will need.
Your health history, as well as any drug allergies, may be noted. Some routine tests and exams may be done:
• Checks of your temperature, pulse, and blood pressure
• Blood test
• Chest X-ray
• Electrocardiogram (ECG)
As part of informed consent, your doctor will talk to you about:
• What will be done during the surgery
• Risks of the surgery
• What other choices you may have
You should make sure you understand this Information. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Have your doctor talked about something if it isn’t clear to you? Your doctor must explain what is involved in your treatment before you can agree to it. This process is called informed consent. You will be asked to sign a consent form before surgery. This form varies from doctor to doctor. Most consent forms spell out what your operation is, who will do it, what condition it is meant to repair, and what the risks are. Read it closely. Ask questions if there is something you don’t understand.
The Health Care Team
A team headed by your doctor and made up of a number of healthcare professionals will work together to care for you before, during, and after your operation. During the surgery, a physician assistant or another doctor may help your doctor. Nurses will assist your doctor during surgery, perform special tasks, and help make you more comfortable. You may be visited before or after surgery by members of the healthcare team. They may discuss anaesthesia and things you may need to do to help you get well.
Just before surgery, preoperative preparation takes place. The steps vary, but this is what you can expect:
• The part of your body where the doctor will operate will be cleaned and may be shaved.
• You’ll be asked to remove any of the following items:
• Dentures and bridges
• Hearing aids
• Contact lenses and glasses
• Nail polish
• Wigs, hairpins, combs, and barrettes
• You’ll be asked to remove all your clothes. You will put on a special gown and maybe a cap.
• You will be taken to an area where you’ll wait until the surgical team is ready for you. Some places will allow family members or friends to wait for you.
• You may be given medication to help you relax. You may also be given other medications that your doctor has ordered. An intravenous (IV) line might be placed into your arm.
• A tube called a catheter may be placed in your bladder to drain urine. This is often done
after you have been given anaesthesia. This way it is not felt.
After you have been taken into the operating room, you will be moved to the operating table. Monitors will be attached to your chest, arms, and other parts of your body before the anaesthetic is given. Any anaesthesia carries some risks. The drugs and techniques used today are pretty safe, though if you are concerned, talk to your doctor or anesthesiologist. The choice of anaesthesia will depend on the type of operation, the state of your health, your wishes, and other factors.
General anaesthesia makes you unconscious
Twilight anaesthesia makes you semi-conscious. The depth of the anaesthesia varies according to your preference. The anaesthetic is then given through your IV line.
Regional anaesthesia does not make you unconscious. It works by blocking feeling in a region of the body. You may still feel a sense of pressure in this part of your body during the operation.
Local anaesthesia is given by a shot from a needle into the area where the doctor will operate. It does not numb as large an area as a regional anaesthetic does. Like regional anaesthesia, local anaesthesia takes away the pain but not feelings of pressure. You may have had this type of anaesthesia at the dentist’s office.
After the Operation
Once the operation is over, you will be moved into the recovery area. This area is equipped to monitor patients after surgery. You may have an IV line in your arm or wrist to provide fluids because you won’t be able to eat right away. You may also have a tube in your nose or a mask over your face to provide oxygen. Many patients feel groggy, confused, and chilly when they wake up after an operation. It is common to have a headache, nausea and vomiting, muscle aches, or a sore throat shortly after surgery. These discomforts should not last long. You can ask for medicine to relieve them. You
will remain in the recovery room until you are stable and the anaesthesia has worn off.
Pain is a normal part of the healing process after an operation. During your recovery, you should have enough pain relievers to keep you comfortable. You may also receive antibiotics and other medicines. Fluids may be given through an IV line. Sometimes the pain medicine may cause you to have little memory of the day of surgery.
After outpatient surgery, you will most likely be able to go home within a few hours. Before you leave, a nurse or doctor will go over any instructions on diet, medicine, and care for your incision. You will be told about any things you should avoid. These may include having sex, taking baths, climbing stairs, driving, or exercising. You may be advised against driving right after outpatient surgery. You should arrange to have someone drive you home when you’re ready to check out.
Facing an operation can make you nervous. Knowing what to expect will help you feel more at ease. Each surgery is unique. Your doctor can provide details and answer any questions you may have. The more you know about your surgery, the better you can take part in getting well.