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Undergoing any surgical intervention is an important decision that requires complete information about the operation, adequate preparation for it, and foresight about the possible personal, family, and economic repercussions throughout the entire perioperative period (before, during, and after the operation).

The planning of a surgical procedure involves five essential steps:

● The consultation with the surgeon

● The pre-anesthetic consultation

● The surgery

● The immediate postoperative period

● Discharge and the care and check-up plan

The last two vary depending on whether the surgery involves hospitalization or outpatient surgery (the patient goes home a few hours after the operation).

During the consultation with the surgeon, the surgeon explains to the patient the reasons for recommending the operation, the alternatives to it, the expected benefits of the procedure (or the harm if it is not carried out), and the risks and complications that may arise from the intervention. It should not be forgotten that a surgical operation, however small it may be, represents an aggression to the organism, with which the aim is to improve the patient's state of health, but which implies a risk -generally small- of suffering discomfort, undesirable effects and sometimes complications that can become important. Naturally, the risk of suffering some complication is directly related to the complexity and difficulty of the operation, and to the patient's state of health (which is called comorbidity or associated pathology: previous diseases, diabetes, respiratory problems, etc.).

Informed consent

Every patient who decides to undergo surgical treatment must sign a document stating: his or her full name and that of the surgeon, the place where the operation will be performed, the type of intervention proposed, and the reason for which it is proposed, as well as a statement in which he or she acknowledges having understood and accepted the explanations received. It is very important that patients are fully informed in terms they can understand: in case of doubt or uncertainty, it is essential to ask the surgeon. This form is signed during the consultation or at a later time; always before the operation.

The days before surgery

Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, you should not take aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, or medications that may interfere with clotting or anesthetics in the days prior to surgery. It is also advisable to restrict alcohol intake and, if smoking is harmful in any situation, it is especially harmful before surgery. It is therefore advisable to stop smoking a few days beforehand. The surgeon will establish the plans concerning any other indications regarding diet, medication, specific preoperative preparation, etc. It is essential that the patient informs about any incidence on his health: the appearance of fever, cough, cold, etc. are generally sufficient reasons to delay the surgery.

In the case of particularly serious operations, some patients choose to express their wishes regarding their health care by means of a written declaration of advance directives. It is also advisable to be perfectly clear about the financial aspects of the procedure (insurance coverage) as well as to have everything necessary for after the surgery: care at home, transfer from the hospital (it is not advisable to drive after surgery), etc.

Finally, the day before the surgery, make sure you follow the instructions given: do not drink or eat during the indicated period (usually from eight hours before), take a shower and ensure the cleanliness of the surgical area, take the prescribed medication and comply with the specific recommendations (bowel preparation, shaving, etc.). On the day of the operation, it is advisable to go to the hospital in good time, dressed in comfortable clothes. Do not carry money or valuables and avoid metal objects (chains, bracelets, etc.). It is also advisable not to wear makeup or nail polish and inform the doctor or nurse if you wear dentures or other prostheses.

Numerous surgical procedures are performed every day with a very high degree of safety. The best way to face this experience and reduce the anxiety and uneasiness caused by the unknown is precisely to reduce uncertainty through correct information. Therefore, the best advice that can be given to a patient who is going to undergo surgery is that he/she should not hesitate to consult and ask any doubts or questions regarding his/her operation.


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