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If you’re considering surgery then your doctor will discuss all of the risks with you before you have the procedure. Remember that no surgery is free of risks, and knowing what might be in store will help avoid surprises.
The most often seen problem with surgery is not the procedure itself but the sedation needed to perform it. Sedation can cause serious complications if the patient has an adverse reaction to any of the medicines used. Many of the problems with anesthesia occur during the process intubating the patient. Inserting the intubation tube (or breathing tube) may result in breathing fluid into the lungs during surgery. Elevated blood pressure and heart rate may also occur during the procedure. Another reaction to anesthesia is when the patient’s temperature rises quickly, and this can be life threatening. This reaction is called malignant hyperthermia and is more common if the patient had an episode in a prior surgery.
Bleeding During Procedure
Bleeding beyond what’s expected for a particular surgery may require a blood transfusion. However, if the bleeding is so severe the procedure may be terminated or else a substantial transfusion might be needed. Surgery without administration of blood products, called bloodless surgery, is gaining popularity, partly due to religious preferences.
Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) also known as blood clots are a significant risk of any surgical procedure. DVTs can begin at the surgical site or someplace else (from inactivity) during the recovery process. Heparin is a drug given to many postoperative patients in order to help prevent the formation of blood clots. A blood clot can turn into a critical complication if it begins to travels through the blood and lodges in the lungs. This causes a pulmonary embolisms, or if it travels to the brain, a stroke. Those prone to blood clotting are more at risk for develop DVT complications.
All surgeries carry a risk of death. Of course, more involved surgeries like heart valve replacement have a higher risk of death than less involved procedures like appendix removal. However, overall the risk of death is usually quite small. An exception to the relatively low risk of death during surgery is when trauma surgery is needed. This is an emergency procedure required to save a person’s life, where many times the person could die without intervention. The risk of death following trauma surgery is therefore much higher than for any other surgery.
Infection After Surgery
Any time the skin is cut there is a risk of getting an infection. A surgical incision creates a huge opportunity for bacteria to enter the body in spite of the steps taken to maintain sterility. If a patient already has an infection that requires surgery then the risk of the infection spreading in the blood is elevated. Many patients routinely receive antibiotics just before and after the surgical procedure in order to minimize this risk.
At the conclusion of the surgical procedure most patients can be removed from the ventilator, while a few patients may require extended ventilation. In some, extreme instances patients may require pulmonary rehabilitation to strengthen their breathing ability until they’re completely removed from the ventilator. The risk factors for needing extended ventilation are patients with lung diseases, the chronically ill, smokers, and those who needed ventilation prior to surgery.
Healing time is as individual as the patient. Some people heal faster but those with more than one illness usually heal slower. Also, people with a chronic illness, an immune system problem, or illness prior to surgery usually have a longer hospital stay and a more lengthy recovery. Diabetic patients who undergo surgery usually have a longer healing time, primarily if blood glucose isn’t well controlled.