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Health Protocols

Surgery - Preparation and Recovery

How Can I Prepare for Surgery and Speed Recovery?

Almost 50 million inpatient surgeries are performed each year in the United States. Modern advances have made surgeries faster, more precise, and much safer. Of course, there are still risks associated with any surgery, including infection, pain, and complications from anesthesia.

Recently, several strategies have been identified that patients and their medical teams can utilize to promote faster recovery times and improve patient health.

Also, many natural integrative interventions such as omega-3 fatty acids, coenzyme Q10, and vitamins C, D, and E have been shown to improve patient health both pre- and postoperatively.

What is Important During the Preoperative Period?

  • Risk assessment – the surgical team will determine the patient’s risk of complications and what steps to take to prevent them.
  • Nutritional interventions to ensure the patient has adequate reserves of carbohydrates, proteins, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals
  • Preoperative fasting to reduce the risk of complications due to anesthesia
  • Premedication to prevent blood clots, if deemed necessary
  • Premedication with antibiotics, if deemed necessary
  • Lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or exercising to improve outcomes

What is Important During the Postoperative (Recovery) Period?

  • Pain management, either through medication or non-medicinal interventions like massages
  • Wound healing – proper levels of oxygen and nutrients are essential for healing wounds.
  • Preventing infection, potentially with antibiotics
  • Food and fluid intake is necessary for recovery. Patients should focus on food and supplements to boost their immune system and promote healing (see “What Natural Interventions are Beneficial for Surgery Recovery?”).
  • Physical activity as soon as possible after surgery

What Emerging Strategies Appear Promising For Improving Surgery Outcomes?

  • Using natural openings instead of incisions to reach the area of surgery
  • Decreased size and number of incisions (eg, laparoscopic surgery)
  • Robotic surgeries
  • Advances in creating artificial materials and body parts like 3-D printing

What Natural Interventions are Beneficial for Surgery Recovery?

  • Immunonutrition shakes. Several immunonutrition shakes and supplements are commercially available and can reduce the risk of infection and shorten hospital stay. Most effective supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids, proteins and amino acids, and a variety of vitamins and minerals.
  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C is important for wound healing, reducing the incidence of atrial fibrillation, and reducing markers of oxidative stress. The combination of intravenous vitamin C with thiamin (vitamin B1) and hydrocortisone has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of death from sepsis.
  • Vitamin E. Vitamin E can improve wound healing, reduce tissue damage caused by free radicals, and lessen surgically-induced inflammation.
  • Vitamin D. Vitamin D is critical for bone health and can improve patient outcome in certain surgeries including knee replacement and hip fractures.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of infection and other complications, shorten hospital stays, and improve the nutritional status of postoperative patients.
  • Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). CoQ10 is an antioxidant that may reduce inflammation due to various surgeries.
  • Zinc. Zinc is an important cofactor for several enzymes involved in wound healing.
  • Propolis. Propolis, a resin produced by honey bees, has antimicrobial properties that may help heal wounds.
  • Many other natural interventions may be beneficial to those undergoing surgery, including melatonin, curcumin, alpha-lipoic acid, probiotics, N-acetyl cysteine, and others.