Before, During, and After Surgery
Operating Rooms and Postanesthesia Recovery Units
The process of surgery has three components: preoperative (before surgery), intraoperative (during surgery), and postoperative (after surgery). Here, I'll cover the risks at each stage and how to prevent them.
The problem with surgery is that even if everyone does his or her job with full alertness and accuracy, there is still a chance that something could go wrong because there are things going on that make us defenseless. First, the anesthesiologists put us into a state of unconsciousness with drugs, and then the surgeons cut us open and sew us back up with a lot of cutting, manipulation, clamping, and burning in between. Although the providers always intend to control the process to create a beneficial outcome, we are still dealing with a tremendous insult to the human body and mind.
Given the potential complications in all this, we expect flawless performance of every staff member involved so we can get through all the natural hurdles without someone's moment of inattention causing us harm. Watching a surgical team at work is a little like watching professional baseball. Individual skill is not enough. The focus of each team member with good coordination and timing between players determines the outcome. Even the best ballplayers of all time have had days when their game was off. This also happens with surgeons and their team members. Unfortunately, the sad truth in these cases is that the mere absence of perfection can cause disfigurement, disability, or even death.
Additionally, there are many frightening instances where team members simply do not do their jobs. Your best defense against this dilemma is to learn about the most common mishaps that occur in all hospitals. Then you can talk to operating room personnel and administrators ahead of time about what safeguards need to be in play.
One way to accomplish the task is for us to create an imaginary surgical patient. We'll call him Bob Jones. Let's say he has an abdominal hernia. We will follow him through the entire process, taking occasional breaks from the scenario to explain certain situations and give anecdotal illustrations. This learning method may cause some queasiness, but the knowledge you gain could save your life or that of your loved one.
There is an obvious defect in Bob's abdominal muscles, and he needs surgery. There are no alternative treatments. His surgeon has scheduled a hernia repair (herniorrhaphy).