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Getting Surgery? Eight Things You Should Know

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matthew-hiestermanIn general, health care professionals do a good job of explaining how patients need to prepare for surgery and recovery. But we don’t always explain why these instructions are important. Here are common rules for surgery—and why it’s vital to follow them.

Before surgery:

  • Don’t eat or drink within eight hours of surgery. A full stomach combined with anesthesia can cause vomiting. Worse, anesthesia inhibits your anti-choking reflexes, which may cause you to inhale the fluid into your lungs.
  • Disclose all of your medications. Even over-the-counter supplements can be risky before surgery because they may interfere with anesthesia or mix dangerously with other medications.
  • Stop smoking at least eight weeks before surgery. Not only is tobacco bad for your health in general but nicotine constricts blood vessels, decreasing the blood oxygen needed to heal wounds and increasing your chance of infection.
  • Follow instructions on aspirin and blood-thinners. Your doctor may ask you to stop taking aspirin or anticoagulants such as warfarin (Coumadin) to lessen your risk of bleeding during and after surgery.

After surgery

  • Get up and move as instructed. Walking several times a day will help your circulation and increase your energy. Movement also helps prevent potentially fatal post-surgery blood clots.
  • Breathe deeply and cough. Being on a ventilator during surgery can lead to breathing problems afterward. Expanding your lungs and clearing your airway can help prevent complications such as pneumonia.
  • Don’t soak in water for two weeks. Submerging your incisions in water before they are healed can lead to infection. Showering is usually OK one or two days after surgery.
  • Try to relax. Stress hormones can cause a range of symptoms and can weaken your immune system and interfere with your body’s ability to fight infection and manage pain.


Matthew Hiesterman, DO, is a general surgeon with Asante Physician Partners, (541) 201-4850. He performs minimally invasive procedures and surgeries at Asante Ashland Community Hospital.


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