What to Expect When You’re Expecting (to need surgery)

4 Things to Know as You Consider Surgery

If you’ve never had surgery, or (thankfully) haven’t had surgery in awhile, you might be surprised by what’s possible today in surgery.

Four things to know!

1. Seek a minimally-invasive procedure whenever possible. Today, many of the most common procedures–including colorectal procedures, gallbladder removal, hernia repairs, hysterectomies, and many others–can be done safely and effectively in a minimally-invasive way.

Smaller incisions means less healing, less risk for infection and less pain.

Ask for minimally-invasive surgery. (The terms “laparoscopic” and “robotic-assisted” typically indicate a minimally-invasive surgery.) And if your surgeon is planning an “open” procedure, ask why.

2. Pain management starts before surgery. It starts with your own expectations of the pain related to surgery. Having no pain is not a reasonable expectation. The last 20 years have shown that, while very little pain is possible through the use of opioid painkillers, there are many, many consequences of this option (opioid use can lead to complications like constipation, drowsiness and even dependence/addiction). Experiencing some pain is actually a good thing.

Leading physicians today, who deliver care according to Advanced Surgical Pathways, often use several non-addictive pain medications prior to surgery to get ahead of the pain. This is called “multi-modal analgesia” and has been shown to have dramatic benefits in terms of patient recovery post-surgery. You might be surprised to learn that even common over-the-counter medications, like acetaminophen (Tylenol), play a key role in surgery-related pain management.

Be sure to ask your physician about the pre- and post-surgery plan to effectively manage the pain and minimize your need for opioid painkillers.

3. Get moving! Surgery done well means you will likely be asked to get moving very soon after surgery. And this is for good reason. Moving gets the healing process kick-started.

4. Healing doesn’t stop when you leave the hospital. In fact, at that point, it’s likely just getting started. In today’s healthcare system, nearly twice as many surgeries are performed in an outpatient setting (one in which the patient goes home the same day) as compared to an inpatient setting (one in which the patient spends at least one night in the hospital). This is great news for patients! It does, however, require some planning.

Be sure to talk with your physician before surgery about what you should plan for after surgery, including pain management, exercise/movement, and wound healing. And if you aren’t comfortable with the plan, seek a second opinion. The goal is to get back to your normal life as soon as possible–walking the dog, coaching your daughter’s soccer team, going back to work, or whatever normal life means to you. With innovative surgical techniques and care plans, many patients today can get back to their normal life days and weeks sooner than the national average. Talk with your doctor about how you can be one of those patients.

Looking to have someone by your side through these 4 considerations and everything else that goes into navigating surgery and recovery? Consider the Goldfinch Health program for individual patients. Or ask your employer or health plan about Goldfinch.

Whether advocating for yourself through the process or working with Goldfinch, surgery doesn’t have to be the major life event with big risks it once was. A much improved option is available and, by becoming an informed patient, you are well on your way to finding it!

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