Surgery can be a daunting event if you think it will be and are unprepared. While it is natural to be anxious about an upcoming surgery, here are a few tips to keep your anxiety manageable and to prepare yourself for the best surgical outcome. This is not meant to be exhaustive but provides an outline to start mentally preparing yourself.
You should feel as though you have a good understanding of your procedure, the expectations during the recovery phase and the expected outcome. Know what possible complications you may encounter. You need to feel comfortable with your decision to have surgery and trust your surgical/medical team. Your surgeon will also give you steps to follow prior to and after surgery.
Patients and surgeons frequently have different expectations for surgery and the recovery period. This can lead to misunderstanding, frustration and concern that something is wrong. It is important that your expectations are in sync with your surgeon. You may want to ask, what is the ultimate expectation for surgery and what is the time frame to achieve this? What do you need to do to achieve your goals? Sometimes when surgery is recommended patients automatically assume this will cure the problem only to discover later that this was not the surgeon’s expectation. Have this discussion with your surgeon before making a decision.
Medicine is not an exact science. Surgeons do notknow how your body will respond to surgery and the expectations may not be met, or not met in the anticipated time-frame. If this happens it does not mean your surgery failed. It just means that you need to be flexible and adapt to what your body needs in the moment.
Recovery is Priority
Make plans for an adequate recovery period. Take time off. Understand that your body needs time to heal and that healing is a process. Recovery requires flexibility. There will be some things you cannot do right away. And, there will be some things you will have to accommodate how you do it. Recovery is an evolving process which requires your investment.
Pain and Pain Management
Most people will experience pain after surgery. The intensity of pain depends on the type of surgery and your body’s response to pain. If you are having major surgery and/or are more sensitive to pain, it might be helpful to meet with a pain management doctor prior to surgery. This ensures you have someone to manage your pain after surgery if needed. It is also important to manage pain with other means, such as icing, changing positions, deep breathing exercises and overall stress reduction.
Successful surgery requires you to be an active participant. Ask questions. Be prepared. Once surgery is over, it is up to you to create an environment to optimize your recovery.
Dr. Julia Kim is a Clinical Psychologist at Hospital for Special Surgery. Dr. Kim is the first Clinical Psychologist to formally work within the HSS family and her focus is to develop an Integrative Care Program, designed to incorporate psychological services to a multi-disciplinary care team. She works closely with physicians and surgeons to optimize the best possible medical outcome.