6 tips to prepare for major surgery

6 tips to prepare for major surgery

If you have a major surgery coming up, taking the time to plan ahead can make life easier after the fact.

Amy Barwick, doctor of Physical Therapy and senior physical therapist for Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee offers some helpful tips you should consider if you’re getting surgery soon.

1. Plan ahead

“When you go home after surgery you want to be able to relax and not worry about your ‘to-do’ list, so try and get some of the ‘must-dos’ done prior,” said  “You can do this by cleaning the house, going grocery shopping, doing laundry, prepping easy meals, and rearranging cabinets to put frequently used items at a convenient height.”

Barwick added that for grocery shopping or meal prepping, “think about what can be made ahead of time and frozen. If you aren’t a cooker, make a meal train with friends, family and neighbors.”

2. Think about fiber 

Keep some high-fiber foods on hand for post-surgery in case you experience opioid-induced constipation. Having a stool softener or laxative on hand will also be helpful.

3. Cozy up

Think about where you plan to spend the day when you first get home, she said. Is it the living room or bedroom? Set up some essentials for yourself in that room, like a water bottle, blanket, pillows for propping, a phone charger, book, puzzles, etc.

4. Ask about equipment

The hospital may issue special equipment to help you after surgery, such as a cane or walker. But some equipment is not provided so you might want to ask ahead of time.

“If you think you will need a shower chair or toilet seat riser to assist with bathroom mobility, I recommend buying and setting that up pre-operably, so it’s ready to use when you get home,” said Barwick.

5. Have someone ready to help you

“Be aware you can’t drive while on most prescription pain medication or until cleared by the doctor post-op,” Barwick said. So, plan who is going to drive you home from the surgery, and to post-op appointments and errands.”

You’ll also want to consider what time of year you’ll be having surgery and what outdoor tasks you may need to delegate, she said. Like snow removal or yard work.

“Plan to have someone help you with that at least the first month after surgery,” she said.

6. Prepare your body

“Don’t wait until after surgery to get active. Start a walking program pre-op with a goal of 30 minutes a day,” Barwick said. “Any strengthening or endurance you can gain before surgery will assist post-op recovery.”

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider a pre-operative appointment with a physical or occupational therapist.

“Advocate Aurora Health can do pre-operative appointments for several major surgeries,” she said.

Did you know Advocate Aurora Health offers free injury evaluations? Find out what’s wrong so you can focus on getting better.

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Sarah Kennedy

Sarah Kennedy is a digital content specialist with Advocate Aurora Health. She previously worked as a managing editor for a B2B publication and a digital editor for various websites. She studied journalism at Columbia College Chicago.