Scheduled for Surgery? How to Go In Strong, Ready

5 steps to improve surgery outcomes

woman getting ready for surgery

If you are waiting to have a scheduled surgery, you may not realize that there are things you should do in those days or weeks before to increase your chances of a successful outcome.

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Don’t simply wait for the scheduled date. Take these actions to be as healthy and strong as you can be, says general surgeon Kevin El-Hayek, MD. He offers patients these five tips:

1. Eat a “cleaner diet”

In the days before surgery, eat foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals. “I use the term, ‘cleaner diet,’ focused heavily on fruits and vegetables,” Dr. El-Hayek says. “We know that overall inflammation goes down when you eat foods rich in those respects.”

 Also, avoid processed foods, red meat and other foods which are more difficult to break down. ”As the body is preparing for a shock that’s coming up, avoiding those things will decrease inflammatory markers,” he says.

2. Exercise regularly

Among other benefits, getting more exercise in the weeks before a surgery will increase your chances of walking sooner after the surgery.

“Even if you’re not an athlete, patients can train their bodies during the weeks leading up to surgery,” says Dr. El-Hayek. Even something as simple as parking farther away from the door where you work or shop can help.

“Shoot for 5,000 to 10,000 steps a day to increase your stamina. The main thing is that, undoubtedly, one of the discharge criteria you’re going to have to meet before you go home is getting close to your preoperative level of activity,” he says.

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3. Kick bad habits

Use the time before surgery to quit smoking, stop drinking or using “any mood-altering substances that can affect your sleep or anxiety levels leading up to surgery,” Dr. El-Hayek says.

“Certainly in the few days leading up to surgery, alcohol and smoking can really affect the anesthesia.”

On the positive side, patients absolutely should engage in “meditation, prayer and things that are important to help people through the trauma that they’re about to undergo,” Dr. El-Hayek says.

4. See your internist

If you have two weeks or more before surgery, it’s especially important to check in and let your doctor know what’s coming up.

“Your primary doctor might want to make changes in your medications to optimize surgery,” Dr. El-Hayek says. “Your blood pressure and blood sugar need to be well-controlled. From a wound-healing standpoint, the better the sugars are controlled, especially for diabetics, the better recovery you’re going to have.”

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And he mentions one other reason: “Your primary care physician is going to be the one who sees you afterward, who is going to be managing the changes that happen due to surgery.”

5. Find out about supplements, vitamins

Be sure to ask your doctor about vitamins and supplements, because some of them can interact with other medications, particularly anticoagulants.

Medications that impact bleeding, such as aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs (like Advil®), Plavix® and Coumadin® probably should be stopped, Dr. El-Hayek says.

“But these questions are addressed in the pre-op medical clearance appointment,” he says. “It really is the provider’s role to counsel patients on medication/supplement usage as this varies from patient to patient.”

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