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Don’t Make these 3 Mistakes Before Surgery or a Medical Procedure.

Facing surgery can be a frightening experience fraught with questions, doubts and uncertainties. With 51.4 million medical procedures done a year in the U.S. alone (according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention)[1] useful and cost-effective ways to improve surgery results can be quite helpful.

Most people make sure to choose a good doctor or surgeon but it is also important to be a good patient or a prepared patient. Your doctor and his staff will give you instructions on how to prepare physically but what can you do to prepare mentally? The more prepared you are for surgery the better your recovery will be. You are in charge of your state of mind prior to entering surgery. This is no time to take a back seat or to be shy.

Beware of making these 3 common mistakes.

Mistake #1: Disengage and leave everything up to your surgeon, doctor or medical team.

Mistake #2: Feel helpless with little or no control.

Mistake #3: Worrying about the consequences or a bad outcome.

Instead, learn as much as you can about your surgery beforehand and meet with your medical team. Talk to your surgeon, to the experts who manage your comfort during the operation and to your anesthesiologist. Ask questions about what to expect, from the risks to the healing time. Get a second opinion. Bring a buddy or loved one with you. Take notes or record the conversation with your phone to review later on. The more you know what to expect, the greater your ability to prepare for potential complications, pain and whatever might be needed in order to create the speedy and healthy recovery you want.

As you take an active role in preparing for your surgery, you will begin to feel a greater sense of control and mastery regarding your upcoming operation or procedure transforming yourself from a passive patient into an active participant in the surgical process. Patients who have a positive attitude and open communication with their physicians can cope better with the stress of surgery optimizing the chances for a healthy and quick recovery.

Imagery Work Prior to Surgery: The New Self-Care

Can using your imagination help you prepare and heal faster after a medical procedure? There is a growing body of compelling evidence for the supportive role of the mind-body connection in facilitating healing.

“Several hundred studies involving thousands of patients confirm that relatively simple behavioral interventions prior to surgery can demonstrably improve post-operative outcomes in such measures as reduced need for pain medication, shorter hospital stays, less blood loss and fewer surgical complications.” [2]

Using imagery in preparation for a medical procedure or surgery can lessen feelings of stress, minimize the pain afterwards and speed up the healing process. Simply put, your body will  listen closely to the descriptive words and images you visualize related to your surgery and recovery.

In one study, patients were simply told in normal conversation about the importance of blood conservation with statements like “the blood will move away” from the area of surgery during the course of the operation. Then, after the operation the blood will “return to the area”. All instructions were given in one 15-minute sitting. This study dramatically illustrates the ability of the mind to convert our ideas and expectations into biochemical realities. By creating this image and expectation, the body followed the instructions and decreased the bleeding during the surgery.[3]

Finally, it is important to trust in your doctor’s skill and experience, his team’s expertise and to have faith in your body’s ability to heal well and completely. Never underestimate the support of friends, family and loved ones. Connect with them, lean on them. Their support has a way of strengthening you spiritually and emotionally. If you are religious or spiritual, use the power of prayer. Meditation and breathing exercises can also enhance the coping skills you will need before, during and after your procedure. Finally, remember to observe your thoughts and words because where the mind goes, the body follows.

Posted by: Dalia Wallach CH, HHC

To schedule an imagery session in preparation for surgery or a medical procedure, email Dalia at
[1] Source: National Hospital Discharge Survey: 2010 table, Procedures by selected patient characteristics – Number by procedure category and age[PDF – 38 KB]  [2] Dreher H 1998 Mind-body interventions for surgery: evidence and exigency. Advances in Mind-Body Medicine 14, 207-222.)  [3] For further information, please see: Bennett, HL Ph.D., Benson, DR M.D., Kuiken, DA M.D. Preoperative Instructions For Decreased Bleeding During Spine Surgery. Anesthesiology v.65, No. 3A, Sept. 1986.)