P reparing for surgery is important because as the patient, you have a great impact on the eventual outcome of any procedure. By following physician instructions, treating your mind and body well before and after surgery and taking time to understand the procedure and how it can help you, you encourage a more successful treatment and recovery.

Ask Questions and Seek a Support System to Reduce Anxiety

It’s not wise to obsess over odd facts and figures related to your procedure, and most medical practitioners say Google is a poor place to spend your time before any type of treatment. But anxiety and stress over the unknown can create issues, from discomfort to exacerbated health conditions that make surgery more difficult.

A publication from the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care recognizes that anxiety is a common reaction before surgery and encourages providers to work with patients in individual ways to reduce worries. You can also reduce anxiety by:

  • Asking questions during pre-surgery appointments with your doctor (no question is too silly to ask if it’s something you’re concerned about)
  • Reading any material provided by your doctor about the surgery
  • Sharing your concerns with your provider so he or she can provide encouragement or feedback
  • Admitting your anxiety to loved ones, who can provide a support structure before, during and after your surgery

The way you prepare for a surgery depends heavily on the type of procedure involved

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Take Action at Home Before Surgery

Being well prepared for the day of surgery further reduces anxiety and ensures you have all the information and items needed for a successful treatment. The way you prepare for a surgery depends heavily on the type of procedure involved; a simple outpatient treatment may not require special prep while a major surgery usually requires fasting.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality provides a free printable PDF with comprehensive information about preparing for outpatient surgery, and many of the tips are applicable to other types of procedures.

Some common preparation steps include:

  • Not eating or drinking for a certain time before the procedure (follow the instructions provided by your doctor)
  • Packing personal items if the surgery requires an overnight stay
  • Taking any prescriptions your doctor prescribed before the surgery, such as antibiotics to prevent infection
  • Gathering documents and information you might need when checking in for the procedure, a list of medications you take regularly, your insurance card, a photo ID and an advance directive
  • Arranging transportation to and from the surgery facility
  • Asking loved ones or friends to take care of children, pets, your home or other needs

Understand How to Prevent Infections

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that patients should also take steps to prevent infection anytime they face a surgical procedure. Your doctors and nurses take precautions too, but you can help reduce infection risks by:

  • Notifying your provider of any other health issues
  • Not smoking in the days or weeks ahead of surgery
  • Cleaning your skin according to doctor’s orders prior to surgery (some physicians ask patients to wash with a special soap during the days or evening before a procedure)
  • Not shaving near the surgical site; your healthcare team handles any specific preparation that may be necessary for a procedure

In most cases, asking questions, following instructions and relying on your support structure are the best ways to prepare for surgery. Remember to plan ahead to cover post-surgery needs and obligations so you can concentrate on your own health and rest during recovery.

Dr. Tammy Hoyle

Dr. Tammy Hoyle

Dr. Tammy Hoyle is a retired LPN with more than 35 years in healthcare. She worked predominantly with elderly dementia patients and patients with spinal cord injuries.

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