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M
ind Body Health
 

Rx: Preparing for Surgery

© David S. Sobel MD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Mind Body Health by David S. Sobel MD. View all columns in series

Your script:
"Because I need to eat food to bring nutrients to my body, it is important that my stomach and intestines begin to move and function as soon as possible after my operation. Abdominal operations cause my stomach and intestines to stop moving for a short time. This will be kept to a minimum in my case, because I will be very relaxed and comfortable. My stomach will pump and gurgle, and I will become very hungry soon after the operation. My stomach and intestines will begin to move and churn so that I can eat (_____ my favorite food) soon after the operation."

Blood Loss
Note: Research has demonstrated that when people are given appropriate verbal instructions, they can learn to redirect blood flow in their bodies, and, to some degree, control blood loss. In one study, patients undergoing extensive spinal surgery received specific instructions on how to control blood flow. They lost half the amount of blood (500 cc versus 900 cc) compared with those who received either general relaxation instructions or no preoperative preparation.

Your script:
"Blood vessels contain smooth muscle; they contract or relax to alter blood flow to specific areas. So that I'll have very little blood loss during my surgery, it is very important that during the operation, blood moves away from my (_____ area of surgery) to other parts of my body. After the operation, blood will return to that area and bring nutrients to heal my body quickly and completely."

Immune Function
Note: Surgery can depress the immune system, which in turn can lead to a longer recovery time. Research shows that patients can learn to voluntarily enhance immune function. In one study subjects were taught how to induce a relaxed, hypnotic state and create an image of neutrophils, a type of white blood cell that defends against bacterial and fungal infection. For example, one subject imagined her neutrophils as ping pong balls with honey oozing out, causing them to stick to everything they touched. Tests of blood samples after this exercise showed an increase in the stickiness of neutrophils!

Your script:
"My immune system helps my wounds heal and protects me against infections. My immune system will become active before, during, and after surgery. My antibodies and white blood cells will attack and carry away any bacteria that have gotten into the wound, and prevent infections. My tissues will heal quickly and smoothly. My recovery will be speedy and complete."

Scripts adapted from the research of Henry L. Bennett, PhD and Elizabeth A. Disbrow, MA of the University of California, Davis, Medical Center.

[sidebar] Building Confidence:Do I Really Need Surgery Now?

Getting a Second Opinion
Before consenting to any treatment or diagnostic procedure that carries significant risk or cost, consider getting a second opinion. In fact, many health insurance plans now require it before elective surgery. Some studies show that the second surgeon disagrees with the first about the need for surgery in over 25 percent of the cases - especially for operations of the womb (hysterectomy), coronary arteries, tonsils, gallbladder, varicose veins, back, knee, nose, and prostate gland.

Your second opinion should be from a surgeon not associated with or recommended by the first. You may also want to consult a non-surgeon to see if there are realistic alternatives. For example, for some patients, changes in diet, exercise, stress management, and cholesterol lowering medications may offer an alternative to coronary artery bypass surgery.

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About The Author
David S. Sobel, M.D., M.P.H., is a practicing physician in adult medicine and Medical Director of Patient Education and Health Promotion for Kaiser Permanente Northern California. He is physician lead for the national initiative in Self-Care and Shared Decision-Making for Kaiser Permanente. He is coauthor of Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions, The Healing Brain,......more
 
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