The option to undergo surgery can be a scary one. There are many reasons why someone may face the option, but there are some similarities to every surgery. The process can range in intensity and have various recovery times and associated pain levels. Some procedures come with a recovery time of days, others can take months to years to fully heal. Many surgical procedures will come with a well-known set of risks and potential complications. It is important to gain as much information as you are comfortable knowing before making the decision to undergo surgery. Read on to learn more about preparing to make the decision and what to expect.
Getting informed: how to talk to your doctor
Having an open conversation with your doctor is the first step to making a decision about surgery. In many cases, when surgery is being discussed, diagnostic testing has already taken place. This may include X-Rays, MRIs, or CT Scans. Producing an image of the injured area can give doctors a better idea of what type of surgery needs to occur. It is important during the entire process that you be honest with your doctor about what symptoms you are experiencing so that they can provide the best treatment.
- What types of questions to ask, for example: what is happening in my body? What will occur that will fix this? How do you know that this is happening? What steps are being taken to ensure that the operation is as safe as possible?
- Be as specific or vague as you are comfortable. Some people like to learn about every small detail that might affect the injury, others are more comfortable knowing as little as necessary and putting their trust in their doctors and surgeons.
- Make sure that family and loved ones who might be a part of the after-care process have an opportunity to sit down with your doctors and surgeons as well so that they have an opportunity to ask any questions that might arise. These people might also come up with questions that may not occur to the patient, but that might include important information.
- Ensure that expectations are clear before moving forward: how long will the operation and recovery take?
- Formulate the recovery plan together with your doctor. They will be able to incorporate a patient’s specific needs into their recovery plan. For example, someone who has arthritis may need a little extra care during the surgery and recovery than someone who does not.
- Take notes: there is nothing wrong with bringing a notepad to a doctor’s appointment. It allows patients to sort out their thoughts during the appointment, as well as write down questions and concerns as they may arise.
Making the decision
Almost all operations are voluntary, especially those for chronic pain. Some of the factors that may influence the decision to have surgery are:
- Severity of pain leading up to the surgery: does it impact daily life, and if so, to what extent?
- Is it affordable: surgery can significantly damage someone’s financial stability. In many cases patients will wait to have surgery until they have saved enough money.
- Support system: patients who have undergone surgery will benefit greatly from having people around them who can drive them and help them around the house immediately after surgery. It is entirely possible to recover from surgery alone with the help of hospice or at-home nurses, but a support system can make a huge difference.
- Activity level: a patient’s activity level often changes drastically immediately after surgery. This could lead to weight gain, weight loss, muscle cramping, and other complications. It is important to be prepared for this possibility.
- Willingness to follow through with recovery protocol: recovering from a surgery, whether minor or major, requires a massive effort by the patient. There may be great physical pain and emotional turmoil due to the disruption of daily routine.
- Accessibility: undergoing surgery for some patients may involve traveling to a new city which comes with its own set of considerations.
What to do
The protocol of preparation will be slightly different for each surgery. Generally, these are some preparations that need to be made for almost every surgery:
- Take time off of work: for patients who are not retired, it is crucial that employers are aware of how long a patient will need to recover. This can vary depending on the intensity of the surgery – some surgeries allow patients to return to work within a matter of days, other more major surgeries require weeks to months to recover. It is also important to manage expectations surrounding paid leave.
- Testing: some doctors may need a blood or urine sample before surgery takes place. This typically only takes a couple of minutes and may take place days before the operation.
- Arrange a ride from the hospital and aftercare: most surgeries require that a patient be picked up from the operating room by an outside party. There may also be disturbances to daily life that require a helping hand such as using the bathroom or moving around the house.
- Eat or Avoid Eating: most surgeons will ask that a patient stop eating for a certain amount of time before an operation. They may also ask that a patient drink nothing during this time.
- Follow bathing instructions: doctors may recommend that the operation area be cleaned or sometimes even shaved before an operation. Be sure to ask your doctor or surgeon what they recommend.
- Bring a change of clothes: though not always the top concern, having a clean change of clothes to go home in can make a huge difference in morale. It should be noted that the more comfortable the clothes are, the better.
Once you have made the decision to undergo surgery, it is important to have clear expectations about what the recovery process will look like. Maintaining an open dialog with doctors and surgeons allows patients to enter the surgery with ease knowing how much of their time will be taken by the operation.
Learn About Anesthesia
Operations that use anesthesia will have their own set of risks. It is important to know which type will be applied in your surgery. There are two major ways that anesthesia is administered: local and general. Local anesthesia is applied only to the surgery site to numb it, and the patient may or may not be awake. General anesthesia is applied to the patient’s whole body, often causing them to lose consciousness during the procedure. General anesthesia is generally more risky than localized anesthesia.
It is important to ensure that the person administering anesthesia is properly qualified to do so. Physician anesthesiologists are the most qualified for this position. Patients should have an opportunity to talk to their anesthesiologist before any medication is administered. During this time patients can gain more knowledge about what will be put in their body and how it might affect them. They will be well-informed about the risks involved and should be able to share them with you.
Emotionally Preparing for Surgery
Some factors will be difficult to prepare for. It is important to be aware of these as you would be aware of who is taking you home from the hospital. Some of these include:
- Emotional toll: it can be draining to lay in bed for several days, only to go home where everything will be different for some time. Depending on the surgery, daily tasks as simple as drinking a glass of water can become difficult.
- Overcoming obstacles: there will be a lot of what feel like setbacks during the recovery process. Though some tasks can feel impossible, they are that much more rewarding once they are achieved.
- Lifestyle Changes: immediately following an operation, certain tasks that were easy before may become much more difficult. It is important to ask for help when you need it and remember that this is temporary.
Alternatives to Surgery: Considering all the Possibilities
Choosing to undergo surgery can feel like a life-altering decision, because sometimes it is. There may be other options, however. The field of regenerative medicine offers hope for patients who are facing the decision to undergo surgery. Some of the treatments available, such as stem cell therapy and platelet-rich plasma therapy, may be able to help an injury heal without the need for surgery. These therapies use the body’s own cells to enhance the natural healing processes.
Both stem cell therapy and PRP therapy begin with a sample from the patient that is then processed and prepared to be injected into the injury site. Doctors may use an imaging technique such as MRI or ultrasound to guide the needle so that the injection occurs exactly where it needs to.
Unlike surgery, these forms of therapy have little to no down time after they are performed. They can be more cost-effective than some surgeries, and generally have a low risk as it is using the patient’s own cells. Members of the team at CELLAXYS can provide a consultation in order to discuss what may be right for your treatment.
Moving Forward With the Decision
Making the decision to undergo surgery or alternative treatments such as regenerative medicine can feel overwhelming at times. Due to the potential that surgery has to disrupt so many aspects of life, it is not always an easy decision. It is important to maintain open dialog with doctors and care professionals in order to make a well-informed decision. Remember to make sure that you are comfortable with any changes happening around you and as prepared as possible to face the recovery process.