Surgery is oftentimes the best treatment for various illnesses. But while it aims to save lives, some seem to be performed in unsafe methods or with poor preparation, leading to harm instead of safety. According to the World Health Organization, crude mortality rates after a major surgical procedure is at 0.5-5%, and complications occur in up to 25% of patients. WHO also stated that at least half of post-surgery cases leading to harm are preventable.
If you’re undergoing surgery soon, you’re surely anxious and terrified, and if you’re a surgeon, perhaps you also feel restless before performing major surgery, especially if it’s only your first few times to do so. Here’s how surgeons prepare for surgery, and what you can expect as a patient:
Surgical Safety Guidelines
WHO developed a Surgical Safety Checklist in 2008, which most hospitals use (or sometimes a variation of it). The checklist covers three distinct phases of a surgical procedure: before anesthetics are administered, before making a skin incision, and before the patient leaves the operating room. WHO named these phases “Sign-In”, “Time-In”, and “Time-Out”, respectively.
In this phase, the surgical team verifies the patient’s identity, confirms their planned surgery (including the place of incision and type of surgery planned), marks the incision site as they’ve agreed on, asks the patient about any medication allergies they might have, and prepares them for anesthesia and blood transfusion. As a patient, you must confirm with your surgeon that all recorded information is correct, and speak up if there are errors.
In this phase, the surgical team members introduce themselves to one another for ease of communication during the procedure. The surgeon, nurses, and anesthesiologist will reconfirm the patient’s consent for surgery as well as all agreed surgical plans. Antibiotics may also be administered to the patient to reduce chances of infection.
Before the patient leaves the operating room, the surgical team records the procedure, ensures that no medical apparatus is left inside the body, labels all specimen collected, inspects all equipment used, and discusses a post-surgery recovery plan to make sure that the patient recovers smoothly with minimal issues.
What Patients Can Expect
Your surgical team consists of professionals namely the surgeon, who’s the one to lead the procedure; an anesthesiologist who administers the anesthesia; a certified registered nurse anesthetist who assists the anesthesiologist and monitors you before, during, and after the surgery; a surgical tech team that sets up the surgical apparatuses and ensures that they’re all sterile; and an operating room nurse who assists your surgeon throughout the operation.
Three types of anesthesia may be used. If the surgery is minor and quick, only local anesthesia will be used, numbing pain only at the site of the incision. For deeper incisions, regional anesthesia will be used, which numbs your body but not put you to sleep. And in major surgery, general anesthesia will be used, along with an IV and a breathing mask. You will be put to sleep as well.
Various instruments will be attached to your body to monitor your vitals. And to ensure the safety of the procedure, the surgical team washes their hands and arms, wears protective garments, cleans the part of your body that will be cut, and sutures the open wound using a tungsten carbide needle holder, or simply high-quality TC needle holder, an apparatus that firmly grips the suture, closing all your surgical incisions.
When you wake up in the recovery room after the procedure, a nurse will test your vitals and may ask you to cough or take deep breaths to clear your lungs. The wound will also be examined. Afterwards, a recovery plan prepared by your doctors will be discussed with you.
Knowing how surgeons ensure a safe procedure, there’s really nothing to be afraid of. Place your trust in them and follow their advice to fully recover without complications.