Preparing for Surgery: You and Your Home

The weeks before surgery are often among the most stressful for folks facing breast reconstruction. The good news is that there are things you can do to get ready for your procedure and set yourself up for postoperative success. Presurgical preparation tends to be relatively simple, as baseline self-care is one of the most important items on the pre-op checklist.

Brainstorm and gather items you may need after surgery.

There are lots of small items that make the days after breast reconstruction surgery easier. Make sure that you have comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that does not require you to put your arms over your head, as surgery may temporarily impact your mobility. Other helpful post-op items include straws, a thermometer, gauze, ointment, slip on shoes, and stool softeners.

Rearrange your space.

While it is very important to move around after surgery (this helps promote circulation and prevent blood clots), it is a good idea to set up your space so that the essentials are always within reach. Determine your best resting place, be that a bedroom or living room, a bed or a recliner, and organize around that. Create a space for water and medications within reach. Keep extra pillows nearby, and make things like TV remotes, phone chargers, devices, books, and more accessible.

Minimize your post-op labor.

Activities of daily living will almost certainly be more difficult in the days after surgery. One way to reduce that burden is to do some labor ahead of time. Prepare meals that you like and store them. Ensure that you are current on chores like laundry and home cleaning before your procedure. Break larger items, like milk or juice, into smaller containers so that they are easy to manage.

Stop smoking.

Tobacco use is not only linked to cancer development, it can also impact surgical outcomes. Smoking cigarettes reduces blood flow throughout the body, which in turn impedes healing. Blood flow issues can result in everything from poor wound healing to infections after surgery. Tobacco use can also affect your candidacy for certain types of breast reconstruction procedures, like nipple areola tattooing. All patients are advised to pause or permanently quit smoking in the weeks before surgery. Talk to your doctor about how and when to stop.

Stop taking blood-thinning medications.

Cease medications and supplements that may impact your blood’s ability to clot in the weeks before surgery, as directed by your physician. Common products include prescription blood thinners, ibuprofen (Advil), aspirin, ginkgo biloba, St. John’s Wart, ginseng, fish oil, and vitamin E. Speak to your doctor for a full list of products and discuss your pharmaceutical and vitamin routine for tailored instructions.

Prioritize self-care.

The simplest and often most difficult thing to do before surgery is to treat yourself well. Try to maintain a balanced diet, continue to exercise, and do your best to sleep. If you are having trouble relaxing, consider meditation or another relaxation practice. Above all, be kind to yourself.