Self care before surgery

Smooth operation

Having an operation is a major event in a patient’s life. Many will have had limited previous exposure to hospitals, but there is much patients can do for themselves to improve their physical and mental health prior to surgery.

Playing an active part in their preparation for surgery can have a significant impact on their recovery and long-term health. During Self Care Week (18-24 November), you can encourage patients to use surgery as a ‘teachable moment’ with Fitter Better Sooner, a toolkit produced by the Royal College of Anaesthetists, aimed at helping patients prepare physically and psychologically for surgery.

It shows how they can optimise their health, lifestyle and activity levels to maximise their chances of a good recovery. It also informs patients about the practicalities of actively planning both for an admission to hospital and for their recovery at home. All of this helps to reduce anxiety.

For the millions of patients having surgery every year, Fitter Better Sooner can also be a tool to turn the anxiety around having surgery into an opportunity for improving lifestyle and learn to care for their health for life.

Cool kit

The toolkit bas been produced by the Royal College of Anaesthetists, in collaboration with the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Surgeons of England, and with input from patient representatives.

Fitter Better Sooner has been highly commended in the BMA Patient Information Awards 2019 for the ‘self care’ category.

The resources can be viewed here and consists of:

  • One main leaflet on preparing for surgery
  • An animation for showing on screens in waiting rooms or on portable electronic devices
  • Six procedure-specific leaflets covering some of the most common operations in the UK (cataract surgery, hysteroscopy, cystoscopy, hernia, knee arthroscopy and total knee replacement.)

The most common complications after surgery include wound complications and chest infections. There is a clear relationship between poor cardio-respiratory fitness and developing postoperative complications.

Supporting patients

Not all patients will be able to run and cycle, but brisk walking, swimming and modest increases in physical activity can bring about real change. Maintaining alcohol consumption within recommended limits improves wound healing and stopping smoking can improve lung function.

Fitter Better Sooner stresses the importance of controlling medical conditions ahead of surgery.

For example, preoperative anaemia is associated with both short-term morbidity and mortality after major surgery, and also an increased risk of blood transfusion, which is associated with poorer long term outcomes in cancer surgery. Poorly controlled diabetes is associated with postoperative complications including wound complications and infections.

Gov.uk 15th October 2019