Get in Shape for Elective Surgery

November 14, 2011

We all know that to be successful in a sport we must get in shape. Did you know the same principle applies to surgery? Just as running a marathon takes its toll on the body, so does surgery. Recovering optimally from both requires planning and preparation.

Stop Smoking

Even a few weeks of not smoking prior to surgery reduces the risk of post op breathing complications. This has particular importance to the orthopedic surgeon since smoking impairs bone healing.

Stop Excess Alcohol Intake

What constitutes “heavy drinking” is somewhat controversial, and its effect on liver function varies from person to person. If you have more than 2 to 3 drinks a day, however, consider stopping or at least reducing your intake well before your surgery date. The liver breaks down many of the medications used during your hospitalization. You want it at its best.


Continue to exercise, even if it causes some discomfort. There are very few medical conditions that are not helped by exercise. Athletes, regardless of age, tend to be “quick healers” . This is in large part due to their commitment to exercise. By staying active right up until surgery, you too can be “athletic” and improve your chances for a rapid recovery.

Eat Healthfully

Poor nutrition can impair wound healing. If your diet is not balanced, and you think you might be malnourished, talk to your primary physician. A dietary consultation and/or blood tests can determine if you would benefit from nutritional supplements prior to and after surgery. Remember, overweight people can be just as malnourished as thin people.

Address Emotional Issues

Anxiety and depression can have a detrimental effect on your post op functional recovery. Make sure you understand the reasons for surgery and the rehabilitation goals expected of you after surgery. If you feel you need emotional support, talk to your surgeon or primary physician. He or she will refer you to the appropriate professional.

Unlike emergencies, elective surgery gives us a chance to plan ahead. “Getting in shape” makes good medical sense.