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Before you head into surgery, arming yourself with knowledge and making the proper plans can make your recovery easier, faster and even less painful. SJ surgeons share five things you should know – and do – to help your recovery.

Victor Bondar, MD

1. Your mind is as important as your body 

Just the thought of surgery makes most people feel anxious, and that can be detrimental to your post-op health.

“I wish patients understood that the mental part of surgery is a big deal,” says Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center surgeon Victor Bondar, MD. “Patient attitude plays a huge role during the recovery process and in long-term prognosis.”

Getting yourself into a healthy mental state before surgery should be a priority, and Bondar says other patients can be one of the best – and most understanding – resources to seek out.

“People who’ve already experienced whatever surgery you’re facing, whether it’s a knee replacement or a mastectomy, can provide invaluable feedback and education. You might have a lot of preconceived notions about the surgery itself or the recovery process that they can clear up,” he says.

The trick is not waiting to seek out their advice and support until after you’ve already been to the OR, says Bondar.

“I always recommend joining a support group during your pre-op period,” he says, “because that’s when you have a lot of anxiety, and the people there can help alleviate that.”

 

2. Communication is key 

Direct communication with your surgeon is the best way to gain understanding, reduce your misconceptions and ultimately plan your recovery.

“Before your surgery, sit down and make a list of any questions you can think of,” says Cooper University Health Care surgeon Nicole Jarrett, MD. “It’s so easy to forget what you wanted to ask the doctor when you’re in the office.”

Jarrett recommends asking a family member or friend to go with you to your appointment and take notes. That way, you’ll be able to focus on listening. If you’re still concerned about catching all the details, recording the conversation on your phone or with a tape recorder might be a smart idea.

“Many doctors, including myself, are also happy to communicate with patients and answer their questions via email,” says Jarrett. “That way you can print out and reread the info as many times as necessary.”

Nicole Jarrett, MD

3. Robotic surgery offers the best of both worlds  

If the term robotic surgery has you envisioning a futuristic-looking robot taking over the operating room, you might want to rethink that idea.

Virtua Surgical Group surgeon Aziz Sadiq, DO, explains that in reality, robotic surgery gives patients the high-tech precision of a computer combined with the expertise of a skilled surgeon.

“People have this notion of robotic surgery that the surgeon is in another room pushing buttons,” says Sadiq. “In reality, the surgeon is just a few feet away from the patient and manipulating the surgical tools from a console. The surgeon is directing every movement.”

The high-tech console gives surgeons a magnified, high-definition view of the patient’s body, and the instruments are essentially miniature versions of the ones the surgeon would wield by hand.

“The camera offers an almost 3-D image of the area where I’m performing the surgery, and the instruments mimic my hand movements, but with better dexterity,” says Sadiq. “Together those things give the surgeon – and ultimately the patient – a huge advantage in the OR.”

4. Get on the road to recovery ASAP 

Forget spending days or weeks in bed after surgery – the sooner you get moving, the better, says Sadiq.

“As soon as your doctor or nurse says it’s ok for you to try walking or even going up the stairs, do it,” says Sadiq. “You’ll likely be sore and experience some discomfort, but it’s just like exercising – the more you keep at it, the quicker your body will adjust and gain strength.”

That’s not to say you should push yourself to the point of pain or ignore your surgeon’s post-op instructions, especially when it comes to driving or lifting.

“Any surgery takes a toll on the body, and you still have to allow yourself time to recover,” says Sadiq. “It’s completely normal to feel tired in the middle of the day, even weeks after you’ve had surgery. If you need to take a nap around 2 or 3 in the afternoon, that’s ok. The key is to listen to your body and talk to your surgeon if you have any questions or concerns.”

Aziz Sadiq, DO

5. Some pain is normal – and can be a good thing 

It’s a fact that most people don’t want to hear, but any type of surgery will result in some pain. The key to safely managing that pain is understanding how to control it, says Jarrett.

“Many people believe they shouldn’t feel any pain during the recovery process, but zero pain isn’t ideal – that’s been a big factor in how we’ve created the opioid epidemic,” says Jarrett.

“Patients should have a conversation with their surgeon about pain expectations well before their surgery. You should understand what level of pain is normal and also discuss non-narcotic pain control options,” she says. “There are multiple medications and sleep aids that can help you feel more comfortable and get a good night’s sleep without the concern for addiction,” she says.

December 2018
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