Every surgical procedure carries risks, but there are things that you can do to minimize your risk. Ask questions and educate yourself.
The most common risks involved when undergoing surgery include;
- blood clots. Also called deep vein thrombosis (DVT) can start at the surgery site or as a result of inactivity after surgery. If you had DVT before, tell your surgeon up front.
- bleeding during surgery. Excessive bleeding may require a blood transfusion. Discuss this beforehand if your religion prohibits transfusions.
- anesthesia complications during surgery. Raised blood pressure and heart rate, difficulty inserting the breathing tube, and breathing fluid or food into the lungs (aspiration) are the most common problems during surgery.
Everyone’s goal is a safe and uncomplicated procedure and anything you can do to reduce your risk will allow for a successful surgery.
10 ways to reduce your surgical risk
1. Lose those extra pounds. This can lower your blood pressure and blood sugar and improve your breathing capacity.
2. Increase your activity level. The more fit you are the faster you will recover. If able, aim to walk a mile at a “talking pace”, but not so fast as to feel winded.
3. Stop smoking, if only for a few weeks prior to surgery. This will reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
4. Don’t wear make-up in the operating room. Surgeons and healthcare staff need to see your real skin tone so they can assess any changes.
5. No jewelry in the operating room. It can get lost, get inside you, and it carries bacteria which will infect you.
6. Follow the instructions. You will be given pre-operative instructions that are very important.
Getting up early for a procedure is hard and you are hungry and thirsty but having anything in your stomach is dangerous.
Nausea and vomiting can cause stomach contents to go into the lungs causing pneumonia.
7. Take off nail polish from both hands and feet. Healthcare providers can get information about blood circulation and oxygenation by looking at the nails. Any coloring on the nails can interfere with that assessment.
8. Choose the least invasive procedure your condition will allow. Not only does less invasive often mean less expensive, but also smaller incisions and reduced trauma to surrounding tissue. This will allow for faster healing and less chance of infection.
9. Choose a specialist. You want a heart valve replacement surgery by an expert who does the procedure weekly, not one who does it 5 times a year.
Ask your doctor who they would choose for themselves or a family member.
10. Understand the procedure. If healthcare providers are saying and doing things (like marking the wrong foot for amputation) that don’t match with your understanding you can stop them and make sure everyone is on the same page.
Tips by Anna K. Coss RN, BSN, MSN
Don’t forget to read this post: 16 tips on how to prepare optimally for surgery
More useful information
Make sure to be well-prepared with this hospital packing list.
Check out this list to see if you will need any post-surgery assistive devices.
Here’s an overview of recovery stimulating and entertaining post-op gift ideas (so you will know what to tell your visitors to bring).