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Every single surgical procedure comes with risks, even if you’re fit and the surgery is relatively simple.
Understanding these risks is important for you as a patient, especially if there are ways to mitigate or lower your chances of something undesirable happening during or after surgery.
To help you be the best candidate possible for whatever surgery you may be considering, take a look at the 5 most common surgery risks.
Then, figure out if you’re a high-risk patient and take steps to lower your chances for complications and negative outcomes both during and after surgery.
5 Surgery Risks Common to Any Type of Surgery
Some of the most common complication risks associated with surgery include: bleeding, pain, trouble breathing, reactions to anesthesia, and minor infections.
1. Bleeding or Blood Clots
Bleeding during surgery is normal – after all, someone is cutting your skin and making changes to your anatomy.
However, if you bleed too much during surgery, you might need a blood transfusion.
Bleeding after surgery is also a possibility as your incisions heal. However, bleeding too much from an incision site can be a sign of a bigger problem.
Blood clots are also possible after surgery, especially if you had surgery on your legs or hips. One of the most common types of post-surgery blood clots is deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, when a blood clot forms deep in a vein in your stomach or thigh.
DVT is dangerous because the clot can travel up to your lungs and obstruct blood flow (called pulmonary embolism).
Pain is, by far, one of the most common after-effects of surgery. However, managing your pain while you heal is one of the big keys to faster recovery.
Keeping pain manageable helps you get moving quicker and back to your old self. As such, if you’re feeling a lot of pain, don’t put on a brave face. Talk to your doctor to make sure you’re getting the right dose of pain medication.
Relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation can also help ease the pain you feel after surgery.
3. Problems Breathing
Many surgeries require the use of a breathing tube and ventilator, since anesthesia can interfere with your breathing.
You may have mucous build-up in your lungs or have chest pain after surgery, especially if you underwent abdominal surgery or chest surgery.
If your surgery requires ventilation, there’s always a possibility one of your lungs may have trouble inflating, or your lungs can even collapse.
4. Anesthesia Reactions
The drugs used to keep you asleep during surgery can also cause reactions and complications.
Upon first waking up after your procedure, you’ll most likely feel groggy and disoriented, but some people also have chills, confusion, sore throat, and nausea. These symptoms will usually wear off quickly.
Others may have stronger reactions to anesthesia or may have issues with breathing tubes.
One severe reaction that’s relatively rare is called malignant hyperthermia, where your body temperature rises rapidly. This reaction can be life-threatening.
Germs are all around us, so it’s no wonder that minor infections are a common risk that goes along with any surgery.
Mostly, your incision sites are at risk for these minor infections. Symptoms can include redness, swelling, fluid draining from the site, and fever.
Sometimes infections can be more serious, but these instances are rare.
Are You a High-Risk Surgery Patient? Here’s What You Need to Know
Some patients are at a higher risk than others for surgical complications. In general, according to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, there are three big factors that can affect your surgery, surgery outcomes, and recovery:
- Obesity – Excess weight puts more stress on your body in general, including raising your blood pressure and making your heart work harder. During surgery, excess weight can also make it difficult to find veins and get you enough oxygen.
- Age – The older you are, the less able you are to bounce back from surgery. Older patients also have more age-related health problems, which increases risks from surgery. According to a study published in Current Opinion in Critical Care, patients aged 45 and up had the highest mortality up to 30 days after non-cardiac surgery.
- Smoking – Smoking directly affects how well your heart, blood vessels, lungs, and nervous system works. Non-smokers have general better functioning of all of the above, while smokers have compromised function that makes surgery harder on their bodies.
How to Lower Your Chances for Surgical Complications
There’s good news: You can lower your surgery risks if you make a commitment to improving your health before and after going under the knife.
Here’s what you can do.
- Move around as much as possible, as soon as possible
- Follow doctor-prescribed regimens for pain medication
- Stay hydrated
The bottom line: Surgery is never without risks, but you can be smart and make sure you have the smoothest experience possible by taking action wherever possible.
It’s also a good idea to talk with your doctor about any other ways to limit your chances for any surgical complications.