Tending to your health before surgery can help you delay or even prevent it. In this series, we will provide information on how to determine if surgery is right for you, questions to ask your surgeon, and steps you can take to prepare and recover optimally. Surgeons strive to ensure that their patients are suitable candidates for the surgery they are about to undergo. While surgery can be unpredictable, certain lifestyle behaviors have been associated with improved outcomes. Some surgeons use assessment models to predict risk and offer tips on how to improve health prior to surgery. Hospitals, organizations, naturopaths, and functional doctors often offer programs to help patients prepare for surgery. However, the key to reducing adverse effects is patients who are committed to being in optimal health for surgery.
Positive surgical outcomes are essential for a patient’s quality of life and functionality after an operation. Preoperative programs, though often viewed from a financial standpoint by hospitals, can help patients implement advice that can positively impact their lives and potentially delay or cancel the need for surgery. The University of Michigan Medicine has a preoperative preparation program that empowers patients to take control of their surgical outcomes. Dr. Michael Englesbe, a transplant surgeon at the University of Michigan Medicine, compares surgery to running a 5-kilometer race and believes that patients should prepare for surgery, just as they would for a race.
Preparing for surgery is important, as evidenced by a recent study published in PLOS One. The study found that behavioral interventions prior to surgery reduced hospital stay by an average of 1.5 days, with the most significant results seen in smoking cessation. Other interventions, such as addressing alcohol use, physical activity, and dietary intake, also showed positive effects. Obesity is associated with complications before and after surgery, particularly for hip and knee replacements. Weight loss is often a requirement for these surgeries and can reduce joint pain and halt arthritis progression.
To prepare for surgery, it is recommended to prioritize nutrition by eating nutrient-dense, nonprocessed foods for at least two weeks beforehand. Avoiding refined carbohydrates and added sugar while consuming an anti-inflammatory diet rich in vegetables and fruits is ideal. It is also essential to eliminate alcohol and caffeine and stay hydrated. Additionally, it is important to quit smoking and limit alcohol consumption, as both can lead to complications during and after surgery. Reviewing medications, including prescription drugs, vitamins, herbs, and supplements, is crucial as some may interfere with surgery or increase bleeding risks. Seeking guidance from a primary care physician can provide a comprehensive evaluation of medications, diet, and lifestyle choices.
Regular exercise is important for preparation as it improves mobility and increases the chances of successful recovery. Even chair-based exercises can support strength and balance, particularly in older adults. Open communication with medical professionals is crucial, as discussing the necessity of surgery, financial implications, pain management, and emotional concerns can help alleviate pre-surgical anxiety. Evaluating the risk of delirium, a condition that can cause functional decline and increased mortality, is also recommended. Patients can utilize online risk assessment tools to identify potential risks associated with surgery. Finally, supporting emotional and mental health through practices like gratitude journaling can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.
If pre-surgical programs are not available, naturopaths can provide holistic support throughout the surgical experience by offering guidance on nutrition, supplements, botanical medicine, and lifestyle adjustments. They can also address anxiety, immune function, and inflammation to optimize health before surgery. Ultimately, being a prepared patient contributes to a safer and smoother surgical experience. Patients who already prioritize their health and nutrition are the best candidates for surgery as they are more capable of preparing effectively.
Overall, taking steps to prioritize health before surgery is crucial for optimal outcomes. By focusing on nutrition, quitting harmful habits, reviewing medications, prioritizing exercise, communicating openly, and addressing emotional well-being, patients can improve their chances of successful surgery and recovery.