Last week’s blog about bringing a friend and a notebook for surgical procedures not only received a lot of positive feedback but also prompted a lot of additional questions. Many of these inquiries revolved around one issue: How do I know it’s time to schedule elective surgery?
My first answer is another question: What do you think of as elective surgery? Knee or hip replacement? Spinal disc repair? Cosmetic augmentation? You’re right on all counts. Elective surgery is basically any procedure scheduled in advance because it doesn’t involve a medical emergency and often recommended by a physician to improve your quality of life. So, if you’re living on Advil or Aleve – and your doctor thinks you’re an acceptable candidate – maybe it’s time to schedule that elective procedure.
But here are a few do’s, don’ts and other “insider secrets” that might make the experience easier:
1. Do some advance research on the elective surgery you’re planning. Major websites like WebMD.com can be to be useful and informative, but avoid legal/lawyer websites and topical chat rooms. These can be filled with frightening accounts that overstate issues or over-dramatize results; doing you more harm than good. You’re also likely to find helpful brochures about your procedure in your surgeon’s waiting room. Take time to read them thoroughly and ask any questions weeks before your scheduled surgery.
2. Don’t schedule surgery at any teaching medical center in late June or the month of July – at least if you can avoid it. In a teaching hospital, this is when brand new interns who are straight out of med school begin their first rotations. Ever. These brilliant young women and men are eager to learn and excited to put their years of education to practical use (think Grey’s Anatomy, ER, Chicago Hope and Code Black). But experience is what separates everyone in most businesses and – make no mistake – a medical center is a business. While not one of these dedicated professionals gets up in the morning intending to do any harm, inexperience can lead to errors.
3. Schedule surgery early in the week – Monday or a Tuesday – especially if your surgery will require an overnight stay. You want to be out of the medical center by 6:00pm on Friday. Although emergency rooms and care units remain fully staffed, non-emergent and recovering patient departments usually have reduced staff over the weekend. The healthcare industry is also driven to ensure there are less in-patient days this year than there were during the previous twelve months because medical centers are more profitable with a lower number of occupied beds and fewer staff.
4. Schedule a complete physical exam. Every person having a surgical procedure is required to have a physical exam performed by their primary physician within a specified period prior to the planned surgical date. This is the time to pepper your doctor with questions and personal information until they beg you to stop. Let him know if there have been any changes in your day-to-day health that you didn’t mention previously. Are you experiencing shortness of breath? Have you had new or negative reactions to any medicines you’ve been taking for a long time? Ask your doctor all about your upcoming surgery and discuss pain medications that may be administered in the recovery room.
And remember to bring your Red Book! Make plenty of notes on your discussion and you’re physician’s recommendations. A little planning, a little research and a positive attitude go a long way to a quick recovery.
Here’s to your health!