Surgery jitters? Communication is the key

Fear of surgery: Communication is key to staying calm

People have surgery for many reasons. Some surgeries are emergencies, while others are by choice for conditions that are not life threatening. But even for those who choose to have surgery, it can be nerve-wracking when the time comes and a real fear of surgery exists.

Robert Kinkade, MD, a Banner Medical Group surgeon in San Tan Valley, Arizona, offered some advice to those facing surgery about how they can best prepare for the procedure and what they can do to calm their nerves.

“The best advice for someone who is nervous about having surgery is to learn as much about the surgery as they can,” Dr. Kinkade said.

He offered a list of questions to ask:

  • What procedure is being recommended?
  • Are there alternative procedures that are less invasive?
  • How long is the operation?
  • What is the experience of the surgeon with this type of procedure, how many have they performed?
  • Are there potential complications and what are they?
  • How long will I stay in the hospital or is the procedure performed as an outpatient?
  • How long will my recovery be?
  • How much pain can I expect?
  • How long will I need to be off of work?

“A surgeon is responsible for discussing these questions with their patient prior to any operation,” Dr. Kinkade said. “And the most important thing a patient needs to know: no question is too simple or irrelevant. The more informed a patient is, the more at ease they will be.”

Once your questions are answered, Dr. Kinkade advises following  your doctor’s instructions. Remember, they’ve performed the surgery many times and have guided patients from their pre-surgery evaluation to their recovery.

“On occasion a patient will be asked to perform special testing to clear them for surgery and help prevent problems from occurring during or after surgery,” he said. “This might include seeing another specialist, such as their primary care doctor or a cardiologist. There may be special recommendations on what routine medications should and should not be taken prior to surgery. This might include withholding blood thinners and adjustments in diabetic medications.”

Dr. Kinkade says the best technique to calm patients before surgery is communication.

“Communication before, during, and after – encouraging patients to ask as many questions as they would like,” he said. “I always ask my patients if they understand what is happening and why it is happening. I feel the saying holds true that ‘patients or people do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.’”

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