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It is common to have questions before your general surgery. While each surgery is different because each patient is different, there are common questions patients ask about the procedure. Having the answers to these questions can help put your mind at ease before your surgical procedure and ensure you have all the information you need to make the best decisions for your health.

Q. Can I eat/drink prior to my surgery?

Prior to your general surgery, you will be given instructions about eating and drinking. In most cases, you are asked to stop eating and drinking (except water) about 12 hours prior to when your surgery is scheduled. It is important for your stomach to be empty during your surgery to prevent complications while you are under anesthesia. Since anesthesia affects your body, you are at risk of vomiting or regurgitating your food if you have food in your stomach. If you eat prior to your surgery, your procedure may have to be rescheduled, so be sure to follow the instructions you are given and ask questions if you have any.

Q. Should I take my medications prior to my surgery?

Generally, you should take your medications prior to surgery. You can take them with a sip of water. Make sure your doctor knows all medications and supplements you take on a daily basis. If there are any medications or supplements you should not take prior to your surgery, your doctor will let you know. Some medications and supplements can interact with anesthesia, which can lead to complications during your general surgery. If you have medications you're required to take with food, be sure to talk to your general surgeon about whether to take these medications prior to your surgery.

Q. What if I have a fever before my surgical procedure?

If you develop a fever or an illness before your surgery, it is important to call your doctor or general surgeon and let them know you are sick. Your general surgeon will decide whether your illness is severe enough to reschedule your surgery or if it will be okay to go ahead. The decision to delay the surgery will also depend on the surgical procedure you have scheduled. More invasive surgeries may need to be rescheduled because your body will be at higher risk. Minor or outpatient surgeries may be able to go ahead if your symptoms are minor.

Q. Will I have to stay overnight at the hospital after my surgery?

If your general surgery is an outpatient procedure, you will be able to go home the same day as long as there are no complications during or after your surgical procedure. If your surgery is not an outpatient procedure, you will have to stay at least one night to recover and ensure there are no complications following the surgery. The amount of time you will need to stay after the surgery will depend on how invasive the surgery is, your overall health, and any concerns your general surgeon has about you and the outcomes from the surgery.

Q. How long will I have to recover after my surgery?

The length of time you need to recover from your surgery will depend on a number of factors. How invasive the surgery is, your health, and whether there were any complications all contribute to the length of recovery time. When you come out of anesthesia, the general surgeon will give you more information about your recovery and what to expect during the healing process. You will also be given information about how the recovery process after you go home, such as limitations, medication, and when to return for a follow-up appointment.

Q. When can I go back to work after my surgery?

Immediately after your surgery, you will have some limitations until you heal completely. Your limitations will depend on your surgery and how quickly your body heals. Usually, you will be able to go back to work after you have healed completely and your general surgeon clears you of all limitations. The timeline may also depend on the kind of work you do. If you work in an office setting, you may be able to return to work more quickly than if you have a highly physical job. Of course, if there are any complications during your surgery or during your healing process, it may take longer for you to be able to go back to work. The most important thing is to make sure that you heal properly after your surgery to avoid complications.

Q. What if there are complications during the surgery?

While most surgeries go smoothly and without complication, there are always risks associated with general surgery. Your general surgeon is well-equipped to handle any complications that occur during the surgical procedure. Usually, surgeons know how to adapt based on what complications arise to protect your health and safety. After your procedure, your general surgeon will talk to you about what happened during the surgery and what that means for your recovery and healing afterward. Your general surgeon should discuss these possibilities with you prior to your surgery.

Q. What if there are complications during my recovery and healing?

Since surgery can make your body vulnerable, there is a chance you can experience complications after the surgery. The risks of complication depend on the surgical procedure and your health, as well as other factors. If you have complications during recovery and healing, your general surgeon or doctor will work with you to fix the problem so you can get back to healing properly. In the most extreme cases, which are unlikely to occur, you may have to come back to the hospital for treatment or another procedure to address the complications. Your general surgeon should discuss these possibilities with you prior to your surgery.

Q. What post-surgery warning signs should I look for?

Each person recovers from surgery differently. However, there are some warning signs you should be aware of that can indicate complications after your general surgery. These warning signs include:

  • Fever
  • Malaise (fatigue and lethargy)
  • Heat at the site of the incision
  • Swelling at the site of the incision
  • Redness or red streaks at the site of the incision
  • Foul-smelling drainage
  • Pain that worsens or does not improve as you recover
  • Symptoms of a urinary tract infection (pain with urination, blood in urine, etc.)

If you experience these symptoms, you should call your general surgeon and ask if you should come in. Do not wait until your follow-up appointment to report these symptoms. If you experience any of the symptoms above, you may have an infection as a result of the surgery. Treating the infection early will reduce the risk of further complications so you can get back to health.

Q. Why do I have to have a follow-up appointment if the surgery went well?

Even if the surgery goes well, the follow-up appointment gives your general surgeon an opportunity to make sure you are healing properly, address any complications, and answer any questions you may have after the surgery. It is not expected that you will have any problems, but this appointment is a way to be sure that everything is progressing as expected. However, if you have major concerns or see any of the warning signs after your surgery, do not wait until your post-surgical appointment. You should call to ask questions or make an appointment if needed. No matter what kind of general surgery you are having or why, having information can help ease your anxieties and help get you through the procedure and back to health. Along with information, selecting the right general surgeon can help make sure your surgery goes smoothly so you can recover quickly and live your life. Dr. Arif Ahmad's experience and knowledge in general surgery will help make sure your procedure goes well and you can move back to greater health.