Getting Ready To Go Under The Knife

Wendy Lewis

by Wendy Lewis | August 10, 2010 @ 02:00PM

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No one faces surgery, cosmetic or otherwise elective, without some fear and anxiety. The idea of going under the knife is a terrifying experience, especially if it is your first time. It can be a time filled with questions, doubts, fears, and uncertainties. To make it go as smoothly as possible, you'll need to prepare yourself both mentally and physically. Fortunately, the modern trend in all forms of surgery is toward less invasive techniques with fewer and smaller incisions. The new anesthetic agents available are also faster-acting with fewer side effects and a lower incidence of nausea.

Today, more than half of all surgeries are done on an outpatient basis, either at a hospital, surgery center, or in the doctor's office. Recovery often takes place in your own home, so there is less disruption to your lifestyle and schedule. Getting back to work or school is faster than a decade ago. Recent advances have made surgery more convenient for both doctors and patients, which can help reduce stress, but not entirely. It is normal to become anxious before undergoing surgery. Even going to the dentist is known to trigger anxiety in many of us. Stress causes hormones to be released that can in turn, result in symptoms like headaches, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, and irritability. Surgery has an emotional impact as well the physical aspects and trauma to the body. For some patients, the fear of having anesthesia or of losing control is worse than the anxieties about the surgery and the outcome.

Outpatient surgery is not right for everyone. Any patient with diabetes, a heart condition, high blood pressure, or who is over 65, may require hospitalization overnight. Same-day surgery is also not ideal for anyone who lives alone, who does not have a family member or friend close by to help out, a mother with small children, or someone who lives more than a two-hour drive from the nearest hospital. Outpatient surgery also puts more of a burden on your caretaker(s) after surgery to follow the surgeon's instructions, change dressings, organize medications, and keep you comfortable.

Be Prepared

There are general guidelines for the weeks before your surgery, no matter what kind of surgery you are having:

  • Stop smoking and nicotine substitutes
  • Avoid excessive alcohol
  • Eat a well-balanced diet to help promote healing
  • Avoid aspirin or other aspirin-based medications for two weeks before and after
  • Get yourself in peak physical conditions to build up energy
  • Prepare food and fluids in advance that you will need
  • Look into bedding, extra pillows, and furniture rearranging as needed
  • Schedule laboratory tests (bloodwork, EKG, Chest X-Ray, etc) within the specific time frame your doctor requires
  • Make sure you know what to expect after surgery so there are no surprises
  • Have prescriptions filled prior to surgery, so you will have something on hand for post-op pain

Before the Operation

  • Your doctor and/or the hospital will require that you sign a consent form.
  • Discuss a Living Will or Healthcare Proxy with your personal attorney
  • Make sure you fully understand the risks and alternatives of the surgery you are having
  • You may be asked to sign a form allowing a blood transfusion to be performed, if necessary. Ask about donating blood your own blood for your surgery, if needed
  • If you are concerned about anesthesia, ask to speak with the anesthesiologist in advance

When preparing for surgery, your surgeon or his staff should be available to answer any questions you may have and discuss what you are and are not permitted to do after surgery in terms of travel, medications, foods, bathing, etc. If you are having outpatient surgery, you need to know exactly what is expected of you and your caretaker, and how to manage any symptoms that may arise. Surgery is not a perfect science and there are no guarantees, but the more you know, the safer your experience will be.

Wendy Lewis is an independent cosmetic surgery consultant and health and beauty writer.

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