Preparation for Surgery

April 13, 2009

Here’s another excerpt from my little book of Home Nursing.  It details the preparation of the patient for surgery…

preparation-for-surgery“On the day before the operation the nurse should ask the surgeon how he wishes the patient to be prepared. If no specific instructions are given the patient should if possible be kept quiet the previous day: he should take only light food, have a warm bath and an aperient in the evening. On the day of the operation he may, if the operation is not to be performed too early, and with the surgeon’s permission, have a light breakfast of tea, with toast and butter, and, three hours before the operation, a cup of tea or bovril.

His preparation begins with a simple enema first thing in the morning. Then he may have a warm bath or be well sponged down.  The area of the operation must now be sterilized by shaving and then cleansing thoroughly with either soap or spirit soap, which must be washed off with hot water; the skin must again be washed with hot biniodide of mercury solution, and covered with a compress of lint or gauze wrung out of the same solution: or, after drying, the skin may be painted over with mild tincture of iodine, allowed to dry and covered with a dry sterile towel.

Before the operation artificial teeth, hair-pins, jewellery, etc., must be removed, and if the hair is long in a woman it should be plaited in two plaits tied at the ends. The patient must put on warm flannel clothes which can be removed easily, and long woollen stockings.”

Now that’s what you call pre-operative care. These days, patients are admitted to hospital on the day of surgery and the pre-op preparation is left almost entirely to the patient. I can remember once getting it completely wrong and I paid the price.

I had a young baby at the time and instead of resting the day before my surgery, I rushed around putting preparations in place for during my absence. The following moring I insisted on getting myself to the hospital so that my husband could stay at home to look after our baby. Having fasted from the night before, I travelled by train to the hospital and arrived feeling totally parched and exhausted. I had a particularly difficult post-operative recovery from the anaesthetic on that occasion and it taught me a lesson. In today’s world of conveyor belt medicine, it’s really important to rest the day before surgery so as to optimise your powers of recovery. Allow yourself to be pampered!

UPDATE: I’ve just spotted this letter to the Irish Times from a Consultant in Emergency Medicine, which fits in nicely with the ‘ patient care’ theme of this post.

“And the Minister should focus on the universal need for a familiar smiling face. Let us have carers who have the time to care and the moral support of a loved one in our hour of need. Health economists may have factored these basics out in their many dubious prescriptions, but Mother Nature has not”.