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Expert Analysis Highlights:
The day before surgery can be an intimidating and confusing time. Anxiety about the outcome of the operation and long-term survival can be alleviated by knowing facts about surgery and tips patients have found useful in preparing.
First, stay active and eat well right up until the night before surgery. Unless you’re having colon surgery which often requires a bowel prep and an extra day of a restricted diet before surgery, go ahead and beef up! Contrary to popular opinion, the days before surgery should be an active time with good hearty meals. I tell many patients to treat themselves to a delicious meal in the days leading up to surgery and, depending on the operation, even the night before surgery. You won’t be eating much after the operation for a couple days at least, so to minimize the period of going without nutrition, its good to get some good calories in the system. Nutrition is also known to strengthen your immune system, which sometimes needs to work well during your recovery.
Along the same lines, stay fit. Go ahead and go to the gym and get some good exercise before surgery. The days after surgery are like being an astronaut in that your muscles get weak from lack of use (called atrophy). Exercising beforehand can set back atrophy by not allowing it to get a head start.
Here are some more facts that are good to ease fears. The data on surgery demonstrate that the operation itself is very standardized. In my field of pancreas surgery for example, nearly every experienced pancreas surgeon in the world performs essentially the same operation with minimal variation. Many patients are also worried about general anesthesia, perhaps based on scary movies or public legends of the olden days, but general anesthesia today has a major complication rate of only about 1 in 100,000. Anesthesia is very safe in the modern era, and its safety profile in medicine is among the best of any medical intervention.
Patients who do well the day before surgery describe being active with others. As a general note on patients that I see who are depressed and anxious, the more someone has a community, the less likely they are to experience depression or anxiety. Movies, performances, getting together with friends, and family gatherings are some of the activities patients find helpful in making the day before surgery a pleasant experience. Often times patients describe a great experience surrounding themselves with positive friends—people who are optimistic and enjoy life.
Finally, remember the details of your instructions before surgery: Nothing to eat or drink by mouth 8 hours before your scheduled surgery time, and bring your most recent CAT scan with you if your surgeon does not already have it.