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Occasional ramblings by an anesthesiologist/mother (and sometimes her husband).

Thursday, June 22, 2006

What I want patients to know

I stumbled across this post at GruntDoc . In it, he gives some advice to future emergency room patients. It's an old post from 2003, but still worth reading. It got me thinking about the way patients come to the OR and how they are(n't) prepared for surgery. So here's what I want patients to know/do before going in for surgery.

Understand the being NPO (no food after midnight) is instituted for your safety. It is not meant to torture you, deprive you of your morning coffee, it is to protect you from harm.

That being said, check with your surgeon/primary care physician to see which if any of your medications you should take the morning of surgery. It is OK to take medications with a small sip of water the morning of your surgery. This especially means your blood pressure pills. Anesthesiologists have been known to cancel elective surgery if a patient's blood pressure is too high.

You will see many people on the day of surgery: surgeon, residents, holding area nurses, OR nurses. They will all be asking you questions, and yes many people will ask you the same questions. We have to do this. Better you get asked three times which knee we are operating on then we operate on the wrong knee. Again, this is not done to annoy you but to keep you safer. We are not allowed to just read what other people wrote about your history in the chart and accept it as fact.

If your having abdominal surgery, clean out your belly button because if you don't the nurse has too, and its kinda gross.

Don't lie to us about how much you drink. Even if all you drink is that glass of red wine a day everybody talks about, it can affect how your body reacts to anesthesia and we need to know about it. Don't be embarassed. The same goes for your pain pills and how many of them you take.

If you do drugs, tell us. Don't bother telling us the last time you used was 2 weeks ago when it was really yesterday. We will do a tox screen and we will know. Many drugs, especially cocaine, can KILL you when you get anesthesia and they are in your system. Yet another thing we do that seems annoying, but is actually meant to protect you.

Please don't get mad at us if we decide to cancel your surgery. If we do, it means that we feel the risk to you is too great at this point in time. Like being NPO, this is done for your safety.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. We are glad to answer them.

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