Are You Ready for Surgery?

The big day will be here before you know it: surgery day. This day is an important day and you’re likely feeling pretty anxious. Don’t worry, there are some things you can do to help prepare yourself for the best outcomes. Some of these things should happen far in advance while others can happen just a few days beforehand. Using these tips, you’ll be fully prepared for surgery day and ready to take on recovery with a positive attitude.

The first step in preparing for surgery is maintaining a healthy weight. Complications from back surgery are more common in obese patients versus those with a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI). Obesity increases the chances for a failed surgery, hypoxia-hyperventilation, and complications with the surgical wound healing. During surgery, it can be difficult to monitor the blood pressure of an obese patient and even positioning them for surgery can be dangerous. Losing weight before surgery to get your blood pressure and weight at healthier levels can lead to a safer surgical environment.

However, even if your weight isn’t a major issue, exercise is an important aspect to surgical preparation because it can speed up recovery. Exercise is vital to getting better after recovery – when muscles, bones, and joints are in good shape pre-surgery, muscle loss and stiffness are minimized. With the help of a physiotherapist, you might find a plan that can help condition your muscles prior to surgery. The workout can help minimize inflammation and compensatory positions like uneven weight bearing. It is recommended that you begin a program approximately 6 weeks prior to surgery. Always consult with a doctor before starting any diet and exercise plan.

Another great way to be healthy enough for surgery and help with recovery is to stop smoking. It is important to stop smoking at least 2 weeks before your surgery and for 6 weeks after your surgery. There are some immediate benefits when you stop smoking. Firstly, your heart and lungs begin to perform more efficiently and blood flow improves. Having healthy heart and lungs reduces the chance for complication during and post-surgery. Smoking can interfere with your healing – especially at the site of a bone graft. We know quitting isn’t easy, so find a plan that works best for you. You can talk to your doctor for tips or check out these resources that can help. Even if you don’t have support or the opportunity to have outside resources to help you, research shows that going cold turkey might be the best way to quit.

A week or so before your surgery, you may want to make the following plans: place everyday objects in a place near your resting area like your phone and remote. You’ll also want to move other common objects to waist or shoulder level to avoid bending. This includes dishes, utensils, shoes, clothes, and hygienic products. Prepare healthy meals that are easy to reheat so you aren’t left trying to cook dinner while you are recovering. You might want to buy some slip on shoes so you can put them on without bending. Check your home for any trip hazards and move them prior to surgery. Line up a responsible adult to help you the day of surgery and throughout your recovery. Leave any valuables at home the day of surgery. Your surgeon will give you specific instructions to follow before the surgery. Make sure you follow these important instructions and have all of the documentation you’ll need that day.

Finally, while there are plenty of ways to prepare your body for surgery, you always want to prepare your mind. Psychological preparation can give you a greater sense of control and empower you to feel positively about the surgery and your recovery. Gather as much information as you feel is necessary to trust your doctor and feel reduced stress regarding your surgery. You may try some relaxation exercises or meditation to help reduce anxiety surrounding your surgery. While it is very simple to fall into a negative thought cycle regarding your surgery, there are ways to combat those negative thoughts. You’ll want to combat those negative thoughts using a method called “Stop, Challenge Reframe”. Essentially, you identify the negative thought, challenge the negative thought by questioning yourself about your feelings, and replace the negative thoughts and answers with positive, coping answers. You can also try using mindfulness meditation exercises to relieve stress and anxiety while helping to encourage the positive thoughts regarding your outcomes. It has also been proven to help reduce pain, which will be important during your recovery.

Prior to surgery, there are many things that you can prepare for and some you cannot. However, the better your plan, the better you prepared you will be for surgery day and your recovery. Ensure that you and your doctor formulate a pre- and post-surgery plan. You’ll want to discuss diet, smoking, physical exercise and limitation and a pain management program. The surgeons and Nebraska Spine Hospital are ready to talk to you about your surgery plan.