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Preparedness beneficial for surgical patients

By Richard N. Waldman, MD
President, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Millions of people in the US have surgical procedures each year. Being prepared for surgery beforehand can help ease anxiety, improve peace of mind, and pave the way to a smoother recovery. Have a surgery coming up? Keep these tips in mind:
Find out basic information: Your doctor will explain how the procedure is performed, why you need to have it, the risks of the surgery versus the risk of no treatment, and alternative treatments that may be available.
You may also want to ask:
  • Who will be a part of your surgical team doctors, anesthesiologists, nurses, etc?
  • When and where will the surgery take place hospital, your doctor's office, surgical center, or clinic?
  • Will you need any pre-surgical tests or exams?
  • Is any special preparation involved?
  • What type of care will you need following surgery?
Before your surgery consider these things:
  • If you smoke, quitting will decrease the risk of problems related to anesthesia and post-operative lung infections and will help wounds to heal faster. Any period of not smoking helps, but aim to quit at least two weeks before the operation.
  • Make a list of all of the medications you take, both prescription and over-the-counter medications, such as pain killers, vitamins and other supplements and share it with your doctor. Find out if it's okay to continue taking them.
  • On the day before your surgery, follow any diet regimens suggested by your doctor, such as fasting or drinking only clear liquids. Don't drink alcohol within 24 hours of your scheduled start time.
  • If you are a diabetic, keep your blood sugar well-controlled.
  • Consider preparing a "living will" or appointing a health care power-of-attorney. These measures help ensure that you will receive the type of care you want if you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself.
On the day of your surgery:
  • At home, shower, wash your hair, and remove nail polish or acrylic nails. Don't wear makeup and leave any valuables at home. Be sure you have your insurance card.
  • If you'll be staying overnight, bring only essential items, such as a case for contact lenses, or dentures.
  • Arrive at the surgical facility early.
  • You will be asked to sign a consent form describing the details of your upcoming procedure and verifying that you were involved in the decision-making process with your doctor. Before signing, read it carefully and ask questions if there is anything that you don't understand.
  • Be prepared to answer questions about your health history, current medications and allergies.
For more information, the patient education pamphlet, "Preparing for Surgery," is now available online at www.acog.org/ publications/patient_education.
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