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Health Answers

Preparing for surgery and recovery

By Courtney Humphries
June 6, 2011

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Q. What’s the best way to prepare for having a major surgery and make a quick recovery?

A. Anyone who watches a lot of medical TV shows can be forgiven for having some trepidation about undergoing surgery. In that world, surgical procedures are constantly thwarted by unexpected health problems, fatal mishaps, or distracting romantic entanglements. “I wish my life were that exciting,’’ says William Mackey, surgeon-in-chief at Tufts Medical Center. Although all surgeries carry risks, Mackey says that patients can be assured that for elective surgeries, “there is a set routine followed by the surgical and anesthesia team, there are very few deviations from that routine, and they result in a predicted outcome the vast majority of the time.’’

But surgery is never routine for the patient, so it’s important to get informed and comfortable with the procedure. Mackey advises asking as many questions as necessary about the procedure and what to expect during the recovery period — and know what your doctors will do if a complication arises. You should feel confident in both the surgical and anesthesia team.

Preparations for surgery will depend on the specific procedure. Some will require you to stop taking medications for a few days prior — including over-the-counter drugs like low-dose aspirin. Follow all instructions to the letter, and inform your doctors of all medications, allergies, and past medical conditions.

Recovery from a surgery varies with the procedure; talk with your surgeon about what to expect in the hours and days afterward. In most cases, getting up and being active as soon as you can is the most important way to speed your recovery.

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