Any surgery, whether minimally invasive or invasive, carries risks that must undergo mitigation. Pre and post-operative care routines are designed to help manage these risks and improve surgical outcomes. While it is primarily the responsibility of the doctors, surgical team, and allied health workers to mitigate such risks, some responsibility does fall to the patient as well.
In this article, Samuel Lin MD, delves into the various reasons why patients must adhere to pre and post-operative care routines. Dr. Samuel Lin is an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School and practices at Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians at BIDMC. He is also the program director at BIDMC for the Harvard Plastic Surgery Residency Training Program.
Pre-Operative Care Routines
Contrary to popular belief, pre-op care procedures are vital to ensuring the success of surgery, says Samuel Lin MD. When a patient has scheduled surgery, pre-op care routines can help ensure all details surrounding the patient and procedure are captured and factored into the patient chart.
Also, the patient plays a key role in ensuring some of the routines prescribed are followed. For instance, if the doctor requests that the patient stop smoking and all nicotine products and remain fasting for up to twelve hours before the surgery, the patient must follow these instructions. Failure to do so may result in a postponed surgery, or a worst-case scenario, surgical complications.
To fully comply with such requirements, the patient should ask the doctor to explain why they must follow the pre-op care routines. For instance, if the patient understands that eating right before surgery can interfere with the procedure, they would be less inclined to eat. Gaining a solid understanding of pre-op care routines and risks associated with them is an important step towards full compliance.
Post-Operative Care Routines
After a procedure is complete, the patient enters a recovery period. At this time, they are exposed to several risks the gravest of which are bleeding and infection. As a patient, it is vital to follow post-op care routines as they are designed to help you recover in the best way possible. Some post-op care routines include taking prescribed medication, wound care, bed rest, fluid and nutrient intake, among others.
Although after a few days you may feel better and you do not see the need to keep following the routines, Samuel Lin MD states this is not recommended. From a medical perspective, it is always better to take the safest route to recovery (following post-op care routines to completion) rather than taking risky shortcuts. If not followed, issues such as chronic pain, infection, inflammation, or even death can occur.
Stay the Course
According to Dr. Lin, one of the biggest challenges that patients face in following pre and post-op care routines is a poor understanding of why they are in place. While it is the doctor’s responsibility to make you aware of the risks, he explains, it is upon you as the patient to internalize the information and act upon it in your best interest. While there are risks to any procedure that may still occur, informing and decreasing these risks is always the best practice. Doing so will ensure you have a smooth surgery and that your recovery will be as uneventful and successful as possible.