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Surgery 101: A manual for peace of mind
Before your procedure
During your hospital stay
Home again


Do Your Homework
Do Your Homework

To make informed decisions about your care, ask your physician these questions:

  • What will happen if I decide not to have the surgery?
  • Do I have any nonsurgical treatment options?
  • What should I expect this procedure to accomplish?
  • What are the chances that this will turn out as expected?
  • What are the risks?
  • What were the outcomes of other patients who underwent the same surgery?
  • How will I feel after surgery? Are there any special preparations I should make?

Did you take your Girl Scout or Boy Scout oath seriously as a child? If so, to this day you’re sure to pack what you need before a hike: a map, a compass, a first-aid kit, water and some healthy snacks. You ask what the terrain is like and where the trail ends so you can get home on schedule.

When it comes to surgery, studies have shown that the “be prepared” principle can ease pre-op anxiety, reduce your hospital stay and speed recovery.

If you’re about to undergo surgery, ask your doctor to describe the procedure completely. Knowing what to expect can defuse stress and help you approach surgery day with a calm head.

Here are some other ways you can make the time before, during and after surgery run more smoothly:

Before your procedure

  • Follow your physician’s instructions about refraining from smoking, eating and drinking before the procedure.
  • Ask your physician about taking aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs before surgery. Because they are blood thinners, these medications may cause excessive blood loss.
  • Tell your doctor which prescription and over-the-counter drugs you take. This goes for vitamins and herbs, too: Certain herbal remedies, such as St. John’s wort and kava, may extend the effects of anesthesia or create other complications.
  • You won’t be allowed to drive after the procedure, so make reliable transportation arrangements.
  • Organize your home before surgery. Make sure you have groceries or frozen meals on hand. If climbing stairs will be a problem, make sleeping arrangements downstairs.
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga. These will help calm you and speed post-op healing.

During your hospital stay

Your cozy robe or a favorite photo will warm your surroundings and soothe you. Having family and friends visit will bolster you, but don’t be afraid to set limits: You’ll need some time to recuperate, and this includes time to yourself.

Home again

A little help from your friends can come in handy. If worries about housework or bills are nagging at you, ask someone to take care of these chores. In the meantime, the relaxation methods you used before surgery can help you feel better now, too. With guided imagery, you can picture yourself in the near future doing something you enjoy, such as taking an invigorating hike in the woods.