There are several key things to address when preparing yourself or a loved one for surgery. It’s vital that your immune system is well fortified to withstand the trauma of surgery by fighting infection and promoting rapid healing. Your immune system can be strengthened through proper nutrition and that begins with maintaining a proper weight. It’s important to keep your ideal weight or slightly above. Obesity robs you of important nutritional benefits and increases your chances of post surgical infection. Being underweight will often leave you in a weakened post surgical state and will make your healing more difficult. Your immune system is also strengthened by a strong nutritional diet and the addition of these important supplements:
Vitamin A plays an important role in wound healing, vitamin A may be particularly beneficial to post-surgical patients who are using corticosteroid medications. These medications typically slow wound healing, and a number of animal studies have found that both topical and oral vitamin a reverse this effect.
Selenium is a mineral nutrient with an important role in immune function and infection prevention, and selenium deficiency has been reported in patients after intestinal surgery.
Zinc is another mineral nutrient important for proper immune system function and wound healing. One study found most surgery patients recovering at home had low dietary intakes of zinc. Low blood levels of zinc have been reported in patients after lung surgery. In one study this deficiency lasted for up to seven days after surgery and was associated with higher risk of pneumonia.
Patients who have undergone major surgery frequently need blood transfusions to replace blood lost during the procedure. Studies have found that 18 to 21% of surgery patients were anemic prior to surgery, and these anemic patients required more blood after surgery than did non-anemic surgery patients. Supplementation with iron prior to surgery was found in a controlled trial to reduce the need for blood transfusions, whether or not iron deficiency was present.
Vitamin C deficiency can be detrimental to immune function in hospitalized patients, and one study found that half of surgery patients recovering at home had low dietary intakes of vitamin c. Vitamin c is also a critical nutrient for wound healing, but studies of vitamin c supplementation have shown only minor effects on the healing of surgical wounds. Vita min c deficiency also can increase the risk of excessive bleeding in the surgical setting.
Vitamin E and the B are also important to the healing process as well as some effective homeopathic and herbal remedies.
Strengthening your immune system should also include reducing stress as much as possible, discontinuing steroid use, and discontinuing smoking.
The hospital setting is quickly becoming an adverse environment in which to heal due to the proliferation of germs that cause serious post operative infections. Largely because of mounting resistance to common antibiotics, complications from surgery that were once easily treatable have become increasingly difficult to handle. The consequences are alarming: there are more post-surgery deaths, amputations and other severe complications as a result of ineffective antibiotics.
Patients who develop surgical-site infections are 60 percent more likely to spend time in an intensive-care unit, five times more likely to be readmitted to the hospital and twice as likely to die than patients who don't get infections.
Each year as many as 780,000 patients may develop an infection from surgery, or about 2.6 percent of the 30 million operations performed annually.
While the overall chances of getting an infection are small, infection rates can be as high as 11 percent for some operations.
After you have properly prepared your self for your surgery it’s important to make sure that you and those around you in your hospital setting are following a few simple rules that could literally save your life. You need to wash your hands carefully after handling any type of soiled material. This is especially important after you have gone to the bathroom. Do not be afraid to remind doctors and nurses about washing their hands before working with you. If you have an intravenous catheter, keep the skin around the dressing clean and dry. Tell your nurse promptly if the dressing works loose or gets wet. Likewise, if you have a dressing on a wound, let your nurse know promptly if it works loose or gets wet. If you have any type of catheter or drainage tube, let your nurse know immediately if it becomes loose or dislodged. Carefully follow your doctor’s instructions regarding breathing treatments and getting out of bed. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, advice, or sufficient pain medications. If possible, ask your friends and relatives not to visit if they themselves feel ill.
It’s also important to consult with your doctor about any potential allergies you may have to antibiotic medicines that may be administered.
Your post-operative recovery will require patience on your part and attention to the same items as your pre-operation requirements. Proper nutrition is needed to speed healing. Tissue repair is accelerated with important vitamins and minerals especially the b vitamins, and amino acids. Homeopathic and herbal nutritional supplements are essential as well as holistic treatments that can treat nausea and pain. Nausea is also a common post operative problem. This can be remedied with herbs like ginger or through acupuncture. There are also effective homeopathic remedies.
If you require conventional pain medication there are good pain management systems available that will help you avoid a dependence on your pain medication. Interestingly, recent studies have shown us that aggressive and early use of narcotic pain treatments can minimize possible pain addiction later on.
Your diet should be a little lighter initially, and low in fats. With any abdominal surgery, often a liquid or soft diet is necessary for a while. This is where protein and, or nutrient powders are useful. There are also more healthful suggestions than the bouillon, jello, coffee, and colas that might be served by hospital staff.
Some examples are vegetable and meat broths, fresh juices, light soups, pureed carrots, squash, mashed potatoes, bananas, applesauce, or other fruits or vegetables, progressing to oatmeal, cream of rice cereal, and richer soups.
After surgery, it is sensible to eat foods as tolerated and as suggested by the doctor or the nutritionist, gradually resuming the nourishing, pre-surgery diet. Then after two or three months, when most tissue healing is complete and the body is stronger, a mild cleansing and detoxification may be initiated, especially if general anesthesia was used during the surgery or other potentially toxic drugs were used afterward.
As medicine advances the occasion for surgery also becomes more common. The prospect of an impending surgery carries its own innate anxieties, but you can empower yourself and your care givers to take control over the potential risks by a good dose of common sense, vigilance, and patience.
The information contained in this Health Report is intended for education purposes only. It is intended to complement—not replace—the advice provided by healthcare providers.
Lisa Marie Wark is currently a free lance writer and is a business development consultant with a concentration in medical spas and alternative clinics. Currently she is President of MedSpas, a business development firm that provides physicians the necessary business tools to help them build or expand their practices into medical spa facilities. Wark was formerly an anchor and financial reporter for ON24 Financial News in San Francisco. In 2001, she was promoted to the main female anchor of three financial news broadcasts, covering a broad range of financial sectors and industries.