These 4 things can affect your surgical outcome and are often not discussed.
During the pre-op appointment patients are often consumed with pain control options, dressings, and activity restrictions, but there are several other things that can have a huge impact on recovery and complications. Below are a few of the common things that I find patients are not prepared for and can make recovery more difficult.
I get it, your animals bring you joy, but they can be problematic during healing. There are really two reasons for this. First, infection risk. Animals harbor a lot of bacteria and can lead to infections following surgery. I always recommend that if your animals sleep with you, you clean your bedding prior to surgery and find a way to keep them from the bedroom during the first few weeks following surgery. I understand this can be hard, but I have seen many infections from this situation. No matter how clean you think your animals are, or how they stay away from you in bed, it’s not worth the risk.
Second, pets require a lot of activity. You may not even realize how much you do for your furry friends. Feeding, walking, and grooming takes more time and physical activity than we usually realize. In general, it’s best to have some help with your pets for at least two weeks following surgery, sometimes longer if you have large dogs that require walks.
After surgery, you will need a caregiver that helps you at minimum for the first week. You will need someone to drive for you, assist with drains and dressings, assist with medications, and do household activities. This caregiver should be someone with whom you have a strong, stable relationship. The stress of surgery and recovery will lead to worsening cracks in an unstable relationship.
Unfortunately I have seen many relationships fail in the first few weeks after surgery (both friendships and partnerships). If your relationship with your chosen caregiver is less than ideal, it’s best to find someone else to assist you. I assure you that they will appreciate it too. You have plenty of time to work on your relationship after, focus on your healing for now.
We tend to focus the most on medical problems during our pre-op evaluations, but mental health is equally important. If your anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, or other mental health concerns are not well controlled, you can have a flare following surgery/anesthesia. Surgery may eliminate your non-medication coping/managing activities as well. It’s important to be honest with your doctor about the management of your mental health. We need to know if you have not been stable on medications, and what non-pharmacological things you are doing (therapy, exercise, groups).
You may be unable to attend group or private therapy sessions which can take a toll. Check in to see if there are virtual options available for you. Activity is harder, if this is important for your mental health, you will be unable to do many of your favorite things for several weeks. It’s a great idea to have a conversation with your mental health provider about your upcoming surgery, current management (both medication and non-medication), and a contingency plan for if your mental health takes a turn following your surgery.
Planned Trips and Events
I’ve found that having a procedure in close proximity to an important trip or event leads to an unacceptable level of stress for a recovering patient. Not only from the patient themselves, but also from friends/family who are also involved with the event. Planning an elective surgery close to an event leaves little wiggle room for managing complications. There is never a good enough reason to have an elective surgery right before a trip or event. There is often no perfect time to have a procedure, but in general, 2-3 months of recovery is ideal.
Your healing after surgery is much more complicated than just giving time for physical healing, take your mental health and stress into account as well for the best surgical outcome!
After receiving her medical degree from Loma Linda University School of Medicine in Loma Linda, California, Dr. Killeen completed her residency in plastic surgery at the Oregon Health & Science University Hospital in Portland, OR, where she served as Chief Resident.
While completing her residency in general surgery at the world famous Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA, she was recognized for her outstanding academic achievement in surgery, leadership, and clinical performance.
Dr. Killeen specializes in complex breast revisions, breast reconstruction, and breast & body aesthetic surgery. She has a special passion for non-invasive skin rejuvenation and medical skin care.
She resides in Beverly Hills, CA with her husband, two kids, two dogs, and two show cats.