What To Expect During The Preoperative Phase Of Surgery

Preparing for surgery can be a nerve-wracking and confusing experience, especially if you don't know what to expect. Feeling anxious before surgery is a common sensation that many patients report having, per MedicalNewsToday. The preoperative phase of surgery is the series of events that occur before a surgical procedure begins, from doctor's appointments to insurance logistics and making arrangements for postoperative care. Symptoms of preoperative anxiety include nausea, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, excessive worrying and stress about aspects of the surgery, and difficulty sleeping. Many people report being anxious about the anesthetic used during surgery and general fear of the unknown, as well as the potential outcomes of the procedure. While anxiety is a normal experience before undergoing surgery, the best way to prepare yourself during the preoperative stage is to become educated about what to expect and the things you need to do before your procedure.

The specific ways in which you will prepare for surgery and how your preoperative phase will play out will be dependent on your unique diagnosis and upcoming procedure, according to Stanford Medicine Health Care. Before surgery, medical exams, blood tests, and imaging, such as x-rays and MRIs, may be performed to confirm your diagnosis and health status. When a certain surgery is proposed by your doctor, it's often recommended to seek a second opinion to determine if the surgery is right for you, per The New York Times. Once you schedule a surgery, here's what to expect during the preoperative phase.

Handling preoperative logistics

Much of the preoperative phase of surgery involves tackling logistical tasks. Completing insurance paperwork before surgery can be time-consuming, so be certain to set aside sufficient time to complete all necessary forms and requirements before the day of your surgery (per Johns Hopkins Medicine). You'll also need to complete any consent forms given to you. Beyond all required forms, you may choose to prepare an advance directive, which is a legal document that states your choices for resuscitation and methods of treatment should you become unable to speak for yourself. Advance directives come in two forms, which are living wills and documents called a durable power of attorney for health care. Living wills express your preferences when it comes to life support, while durable power of attorney documents provide permission for a named person to make decisions on your behalf should you be unable to speak for yourself.

Leading up to your surgery, there are several steps you can take for your body to be in an optimal state for the procedure. Mayo Clinic recommends the cessation of smoking in advance of surgery, as well as avoiding alcohol consumption. Getting as much rest as you can before the day of surgery is highly advised, as is eating a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. In fact, one of the best things you can do in the preoperative phase is to drink plenty of fluids and stay hydrated with lots of water.

Preoperative preparation on the day of surgery

A few days before your procedure, you should receive a call about how to prepare for your specific surgery and instructions for what to do when you arrive at the hospital (via Mayo Clinic). Patients scheduled for surgery will often need a preoperative physical exam to ensure they're in proper physical health to be put under anesthesia and safely complete the surgery. If you have an allergy to iodine or latex, you should disclose this information to your medical team and any healthcare professionals tending to you before your procedure. You'll also want to bring a full list of any medications you are currently taking with you on the day of your surgery.

To prepare your body for surgery, there are several things you can do prior to arriving at the hospital, says Stanford Medicine Health Care. Before undergoing surgery, shower or bathe, to thoroughly clean the area relevant to the operation, and if necessary, shave excess hair from the respective body part. When you head to the hospital on the day of surgery, avoid wearing makeup, nail polish, and contact lenses. Instead, bring essential materials, such as your driver's license, insurance information, and social security card, while leaving all expensive jewelry and valuable items at home. Wear comfortable clothing and pack a bag of items you'll anticipate needing following your surgical procedure, including loose-fitting clothes to wear home from the hospital.

Mental health preparation

In addition to physically preparing for an upcoming surgery, prioritizing your mental health and knowing how to effectively handle emotions and anxiety leading up to a medical procedure can be key in your overall preparation. There are many reasons why a person may feel uneasy before surgery, including anxiety about the recovery process, and potential pain or failure of the procedure to resolve the condition being operated on (via New Jersey Neck & Back Institute, P.C.) The level of anxiety someone experiences before surgery can range from low to high and include increased stress hormones, emotional responsiveness, and even aggression. To mediate your mental health well-being prior to surgery, there are several tactics and tips you can incorporate into your preoperative routine. These include developing trust with your medical team, educating yourself on the surgical process, finding distractions, like puzzles or television shows, and practicing relaxation techniques, like going for a walk, meditating, and listening to music.

It can be helpful to seek professional support from a therapist or mental health practitioner prior to undergoing surgery. Identifying your preoperative vulnerabilities and addressing them with a professional counselor can improve the postoperative outcomes of surgery (per theĀ American Psychological Association). Mental health practitioners can help you cope with anxiety, emotions, and pre-existing conditions prior to surgery. Working with a professional before surgery can decrease unhealthy behaviors in both the preoperative and postoperative stages.