Happy Doctors

Preparing to undergo surgery takes a lot of courage — and if you’re feeling some pre-operational jitters, you’re not alone. Studies have found that up to 80 percent of people experience many of the same worries you may be feeling: whether their surgery will really resolve the problem, whether the anesthetic will work (or may work too well), and whether the road to recovery may be long and painful.

The good news is that it’s easier than ever to get the hard facts about your upcoming surgery, and about the surgeon who’ll be performing it. In fact, research shows that people who take time to get informed about their surgeries not only feel less preoperative anxiety, but also benefit from faster and more effective postoperative recovery.

With these facts in mind, let’s take a closer look at what you can do to gain a clearer sense of your surgical options — and relieve some of that pre-surgery anxiety along the way.

Take time to choose your surgeon — and the procedure you’ll be having.

While your hospital may assign you a surgeon, some medical facilities provide the option to meet with several different surgeons, and allow you to choose the one who feels right for you. Whether you’re offered this option or not, you can help set your mind at ease by getting to know the surgeon who’ll be handling your surgery.

Start by doing some background research on your surgeon. Many surgical professionals provide detailed biographies on their own websites, and you’ll find even more info on sites that maintain public directories of licensed surgeons in your area or those with particular expertise. Look for info on your surgeon’s experience with the specific procedure you are undergoing — and especially on the results of that procedure. If most reviews about those results are positive, that’s a very good sign.

Along the way, you may come across information on new surgical technologies and techniques. For example, an approach called Fluorescence Guided Surgery (FGS) is improving patient outcomes across a wide range of procedures, by giving doctors clearer real-time visuals on blood vessels and organ structures difficult to see with the naked eye. Make note of any information you find on cutting-edge technologies like these — because you’ll want to find out whether your surgeon will be using them; and if not, why not.

Surgeon with Mask

 “When choosing a surgical team,” says Dr. Raul Rosenthal, regional chairman for the Digestive Disease and Surgical Institute at the Cleveland Clinic in Weston, Florida, “patients should be looking at centers that are recognized for the procedure they are planning to undergo. They should search online for quality and outcomes, as well as the experience of the surgeon who will be performing that procedure.”

To follow up on your background research, schedule a face-to-face meeting with your surgeon. Feel free to ask for a detailed explanation of your condition, and for details on why this particular type of surgery is necessary. They can debunk any false information you might’ve heard, and can direct you to reliable sources of information. 

Understand the surgical approach being undertaken by your surgeon.

Then it’s time to do some research on what is the best surgical technique recommended for your surgery. Start by asking your doctors what they know about techniques like FGS — if they’re aware of how it works, and what the literature says. Will the surgery be undertaken laparoscopically – that is using minimally invasive techniques, which can often lead to faster recovery times. It’s also a good idea to follow up with direct questions about your surgeon’s experience with these technologies. Have they performed surgeries with tools like FGS before? If not, then it’s perfectly reasonable to express concern that you may not be getting the best care possible — and ask for a referral to a specialist who does use the latest technology.

Remember, these medical experts are on your side. They want your surgery to succeed just as much as you do.

Get up to date on the latest technologies — and know you have a right to choose.

As you get more familiar with the proposed surgery, you may come across information on relatively new techniques that your surgical team hasn’t suggested. You may be doing yourself a big favor by bringing this info to your doctors, and discussing whether you might be better served by a surgeon who specializes in a more advanced technological approach.

For example, FGS (also sometimes called Image Guided Surgery) has helped improve outcomes of gallbladder removal (Lap Chole) surgery, post-cancer breast reconstruction surgery, colon surgery, and other procedures. Studies show that FGS reduces unexpected complications during surgery, lowers rates of surgical injury, shortens hospital stays, and may  improve surgical outcomes. 

Fluorescent Surgery

 “FGS is one of the most revolutionary technologies in the field of surgery today,” says Rosenthal. “It provides improvement in patient outcomes across all specialties, from thoracic surgery to vascular surgery, and beyond.”

In fact, many surgeons are now calling FGS the “GPS of surgery,” because this technology provides real-timeimaging of the patient’s internal anatomy, along with smart guidance that is available during the surgery — much like the GPS system in your car. This represents a major leap forward from what a surgeon sees using the naked eye. And it means surgeons can make more accurate and informed decisions at critical moments during your surgery. 

FGS enables surgeons to clearly see blood vessels buried beneath the tissues of the area they’re operating on, so they can improve their decision making during the procedure. Fluorescence can even illuminate critical structures that are difficult to see under traditional surgical lighting — making FGS a valuable tool in procedures like gallbladder removals and colon surgeries.

“This technology is widely available in the U.S. and Europe,” Rosenthal explains. “It allows surgeons to see better, and see more. Like driving or flying, the better one can see, the safer the process will be. Since this technology is readily available and inexpensive, surgeons should embrace it, and patients should be looking for it.”

A group of surgeons who belong to the International Society of Fluorescence Guided Surgery (ISFGS) have recently launched a patient-oriented website to provide more detailed information about FGS technology, along with step-by-step walkthroughs of common surgical procedures that use FGS, reasons why it may be worth considering for your surgery, and even a search function to help you find surgeons in your area who operate using this approach. As you prepare to discuss your options with your surgical team, it’s worth visiting www.imageguidedsurgery.net to find out more.

Set your mind at ease by setting a relaxing mood prior to your surgery.

In the weeks before your surgery, you’ll want to make sure to get some daily fresh air and exercise, if you’re feeling up to it.

Your surgical team will provide you with detailed instructions for the hours leading up to your hospital visit. They may recommend eating healthy foods — or they may ask you not to eat at all on the day immediately before your surgery. And of course, you’ll want to make sure you get a full night’s sleep on the night before your procedure.

As you follow this checklist, it’s equally important to set a reassuring mood for yourself. On the day of your surgery, you can expect to spend a fair amount of time waiting — so instead of filling that time with worry, fill it with calming activities you enjoy. You may want to spend time with loved ones, or get absorbed in an interesting book. Research shows that a few minutes of mindfulness meditation can put you in a relaxed headspace in the hours leading up to your surgery — and music has also been shown to help.

Throughout this whole preparation process, it’s crucial to remember that your surgical procedure is a major life event. So instead of downplaying your anxiety, it’s much more productive to talk about it openly with your doctors and nurses, and with family members and other people close to you so you can prepare yourself as best your can for your upcoming surgery. 

“Provided you’ve found a surgeon who has the most experience and the best outcomes, who works in a recognized institution and has the appropriate backup team, you should be at ease,” Rosenthal says. "Modern anesthesia and surgery are safe — so as long as you’ve done your homework, there’s really no need for concern.”

In other words, the more you learn about your procedure and understand your options, the more you’ll regain a feeling of control — and increase your likelihood of a positive surgical outcome and a rapid recovery.

For more information, please visit www.imageguidedsurgery.net.

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