Preparing to have any surgery – whether major or minor – can be a very scary time for any woman. You may have many questions about what to expect and how to deal with it. Every procedure differs a bit, depending on the operation and the woman. However, in order to deal with your feelings about your upcoming procedure, it is important to be informed and knowledgeable about what is to come. This page covers the basics about what to expect during a surgical procedure and how you can prepare.
WHAT CAN I DO TO PLAN AHEAD FOR MY SURGERY?
What you will need to do for your surgery will depend on you, what type of surgery you need, and what your doctor tells you to do beforehand. If you are having outpatient surgery, this means that you will be able to leave the day that you undergo the procedure. Outpatient surgery is not always performed in a hospital and requires no additional stay. If you are undergoing inpatient surgery, it will be performed in a hospital. Usually, you will check in on the day of the surgery and remain for a few days afterward to recover.
There are several things you can do to make sure that your surgery goes smoothly:
- Talk to your doctor about any medications you may take, whether prescribed or over the counter. Sometimes, certain medications should be stopped before surgery so that they do not cause any problems for the doctors. If your doctor prescribes you medication, make sure to take it as prescribed before your surgery.
- Stop smoking. This works best if you stop at least two weeks before the day of your surgery. You will need to stop smoking because of undergoing anesthesia. The way your lungs work will change while asleep. Stopping smoking is good because it:
- Helps your lungs handle anesthesia better
- Lowers the risk of infection greatly
- Lessens the need to cough
- Your lungs will be much healthier so there is a smaller chance of complication
- Don’t overstress.
- Eat right and exercise healthily. Don’t overtax yourself.
- Follow a special diet and take supplements for iron if your doctor gives you instructions to.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I ARRIVE FOR MY SURGERY?
When you arrive for surgery, you should be ready and have followed the instructions your doctor gave you. You should have an empty stomach, and should not have eaten for 6-8 hours beforehand. You should leave items such as jewelry behind because you will not need them. When you arrive at the hospital, you will need to sign many forms, such as billing information and consent forms. You will receive an ID bracelet with your doctor’s name and number.
Your doctor may perform a series of tests, such as chest X-rays, urinalysis, blood tests, and checks of temperature and blood pressure. An EKG may also be performed. You will meet the healthcare team that will be working with you, which usually includes nurses to assist your doctor, an anesthesiologist who will be giving you your anesthesia, your doctor, and several residents and interns (doctors that have just graduated medical school) who will be assisting your doctor as well as learning.
WHAT HAPPENS RIGHT BEFORE AND DURING THE PROCEDURE?
After signing forms and undergoing tests, you will undergo preoperative preparation (preop-prep), which helps you and your healthcare team prepare for the surgery. These are some of the steps that might happen during the preop:
- The nurse may shave the part of your body that is undergoing surgery.
- You may be given an enema, laxatives, or asked to douche.
- You will remove items such as jewelry, dentures, wigs, hair accessories, nail polish, contacts/glasses, or hearing aids. You will also be asked to remove all your clothes to put on a special gown.
- You will be taken to an area where you will be given medication to relax.
- A needle attached to a tube and bag will be inserted into your hand or arm. This is called an IV, and it supplies important medications and fluids that you will need during your surgery.
- A catheter may be inserted into your bladder to remove urine.
After your preop, you will then be administered anesthesia. The type of anesthesia you will get depends on what procedure you undergo and how your general health is at the time. Since anesthesia can cause risks for certain people, it is important that you get the right type of anesthesia for you.
- Local Anesthesia: Local anesthesia is given through a long needle directly into the organ or area that your doctor will be operating to make it numb. It is similar to the type of anesthesia you receive at the dentist’s office because it relieves only the pain, but not the pressure of the operation being performed. You will not be unconscious during the procedure.
- Regional Anesthesia: Regional anesthesia numbs a greater area than local anesthesia, but you still remain conscious during the procedure. Regional anesthesia is administered in a shot that blocks the area from feeling.
- General Anesthesia: General anesthesia causes you to become completely unconscious during the procedure. It is used during more invasive or major surgeries. General anesthesia is administered through your IV needle. Oftentimes, you will be given an oxygen mask that covers your nose and mouth. After you are asleep, anesthesia is administered. A tube may also be inserted into your mouth and through your throat.
After you wake up from the procedure, you will be moved to a room where you can be monitored and you can recover. The IV line will remain inserted into your hand or arm, through which important fluids are inserted if you are unable to eat or drink. It is common for patients to feel groggy, dizzy, nauseated, or confused when they first wake up after surgery. These feelings should subside as the after-effects of the anesthesia wear off.
WHAT IS THE RECOVERY LIKE?
The speed of your recovery will depend on your general health, lifestyle, and how invasiveness the surgery is. It is normal to feel pain after your surgery. Pain is a normal part of the healing process, as long as it is not severe and accompanied by other symptoms. Your doctor will give you something to manage the pain from the surgery. You will also receive fluids and medication through your IV line, which allows you to stay hydrated. Very soon after your surgery, nurses will help you get out of bed and walk around. Walking is important because it helps prevent any blood clots from forming as a result of anesthesia. The sooner you become active, the sooner you will heal.
Even if you undergo outpatient surgery, it is important to always have someone else drive you home. Before you leave, your doctor may give you instructions on certain diets to follow and activities to abstain from, including sports, sex, or lifting. If you have had inpatient surgery, it will probably be a month or so before you can return to regular activity. Make sure to rest and follow your doctor’s instructions.
Preparing for surgery can be a very scary time. Not knowing what to expect can oftentimes cause nervousness and anxiety. Reading about your procedure and learning what to expect during surgery are important steps you should take in order to prepare yourself for what is to come. Talk to your doctor about your upcoming surgery and make sure to ask him or her any questions you may have.