What do I need to know about pre-op and post-op care?

It is essential to discuss pre-op and post-op care with your doctor. However, there are things that just about everyone can do to set themselves up for success.

Surgical preparation and recovery are deeply tied to each individual’s unique case, surgery, and circumstances. Conversations about pre-op and post-op care can be instrumental when it comes to choosing which surgery is right for you and completing a successful breast reconstruction.

Every surgery is different, which means that the protocols before and after vary depending on procedure. However, there are a few key considerations you can make ahead of time. Below, you’ll find a few things that you can do to prepare for any type of surgery. This list is not exhaustive, however, it is a firm starting point.

Weeks before surgery

  • Stop smoking one month prior to surgery and continue to abstain for at least two weeks after to avoid issues with wound healing and infections. 
  • Stop taking ibuprofen and aspirin, along with other potentially blood thinning agents like vitamin E, garlic supplements, ginseng, fish oil, St. John’s Wort, and ginkgo biloba unless otherwise directed.
  • Purchase loose fitting, front closing garments, as it may not be possible to put your hands over your head.
  • Prepare your post-op help team. Ensure that you have a safe ride home from the hospital, someone who can receive care instructions, pick up your prescriptions, bring you back to the office for your first post-op visit, and run errands for you. If you do not have support in these areas, speak to your doctor about community resources.

Days before surgery

  • Prepare your home. You can reduce stress by preparing foods ahead of time and rearranging your space to optimize rest and recovery. Make sure things like milk and juice are in manageable containers to avoid heavy lifting, gather extra pillows, make sure tv remotes, books, etc. are accessible.
  • Gather helpful items. These include:
    • A flexible-neck straw
    • A gentle laxative or stool softener
    • A thermometer
    • Gauze
    • Aquaphor ointment
    • Paper tape
    • House robes
    • Slip on shoes
    • High protein snacks
    • Phone chargers
    • Emergency contact numbers

Hours before surgery

  • Remove any nail polish you might be wearing so that your anesthesia team can clearly see the natural color of your nail bed. This helps them monitor blood flow.
  • Wash your body with antibacterial soap the night before and morning of surgery to ensure that skin is free of bacteria.
  • Put together a bag of comfortable clothing to change into when you leave the hospital. Set similar items out at home.
  • Relax as much as possible before your procedure.

Image credit: Nell Hoving

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