How to Prepare for Thoracic Surgery – A Step-By-Step Guide

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Thoracic surgeons (cardiothoracic surgeons) operate on the heart, lungs, and major blood vessels inside your chest. They also perform esophageal and lung cancer surgeries, among other procedures.

Your provider will ask you about any changes in your symptoms since your surgery. They will also want to know about your comorbidities, including your history of smoking and any exposures you’ve had.

Talk to Your Doctor

During the preoperative evaluation, your doctor will discuss what you can expect during and after surgery. This will include details about the surgical procedure, including a description of the operative approach, incisions, and associated risks.

If you take blood thinners like warfarin or clopidogrel, you must stop taking them two days before the procedure. Additionally, discussing any over-the-counter or herbal medications with your doctor is essential.

You may need to find a thoracic surgeon like Armen Parajian in your insurance network, but consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and affiliated hospital quality when choosing one. 

Stop Smoking

A smoker has higher levels of substances that slow down the blood flow, which can reduce healing after surgery. That is why many doctors ask patients to stop smoking before and after surgery to prevent complications.

During thoracic surgery, you will receive anesthesia in an IV and be put to sleep. Your doctor will then open your chest or between your ribs using traditional or minimally invasive methods to reach the area that needs repair or removal.

Before your surgery, make sure to eat well. A protein, healthy fats, and vegetables diet will help your body heal. Avoid processed foods, which are often low in fiber and lack nutrients. Increase your calcium and iron intake to promote strong bones and tissue repair.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for surgery. Typically, you will be told to shower with antiseptic soap, wear clean clothing, and not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your surgery. It would help if you also planned on having someone help you get to and from the hospital.

Once you are home, try eating thrice daily and snack between meals. You may want to eat moist foods like fruit juice, yogurt, ice cream, or protein bars. It’s a good idea to use cues throughout the day, such as commercial breaks on TV or your phone alarm clock, to remind yourself to eat.

As your doctor or physical therapist recommends, you should exercise slowly and gradually increase your activity levels. Taking it slow will help you avoid any pain or discomfort.

Get Enough Sleep

Getting enough sleep can help prevent infections like pneumonia. It can also help you get stronger and feel better. Talk to your doctor about sleeping aids that may help you sleep better before surgery.

You will be given general anesthesia so you’ll fall asleep during the procedure. Your surgeon will make small cuts in your chest. They’ll then use special tools to repair or remove the necessary tissue or organ.

If you have a lung disease, your doctor might recommend thoracic surgery. This type of surgery can help you breathe more easily. It can also improve your quality of life by treating heart or lung conditions that affect your daily activities. You may need to stay in the hospital for a week after thoracic surgery.

Exercise

Exercise can help improve lung function and prevent complications after surgery, such as lung swelling (pulmonary edema). To avoid muscle injury, start small and gradually increase your activity level. Walking and stair climbing are good exercises for you to do while preparing for surgery.

Non-resistance leg exercises can be started on the first postoperative day to minimize circulatory stasis and prevent pulmonary embolism. Shoulder ROM exercises within pain limits can also be initiated as soon as possible after thoracotomy to prevent a frozen shoulder.

However, studies of pulmonary rehabilitation programs that require specialized equipment and the availability of trained physical therapy personnel are sparse. Therefore, opportunities to study scalable interventions are needed to allow patients to benefit from these potentially life-saving measures.