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If you or someone you know has been suggested surgery as a treatment option, it is bound to break a few sweats. This is because the final outcome for surgery is not always as expected.

It is crucial that one prepares before an upcoming surgery, which means being made fully aware of the risks you may face, what you can do to minimize or surpass these risks and the outcome.

Every patient has varying factors that lead up to varying levels of risk. It is crucial that you ask your surgeon the right questions, to help you know your risk level.

Questions to ask?

  • What is your level of risk? High or Low?
  • Do the risks of surgery outweigh the rewards—what is the outcome of the procedure?
  • Is surgery your only option? Are there any alternatives?
  • How will your body react to the anesthesia?
  • Are there any risks of being on a life support system, at any point of the surgery or recovery?
  • Is your body strong enough for surgery?
While no surgery is risk free, understanding the complications will help you make an informed decision. Right before the surgery, a surgeon will explain the potential risks of the procedure, in a process called “Informed Consent” but it is advisable not count this as planning for surgery, because there is no time for preparation.

An important part of planning is choosing your surgeon. It is always wise to pick someone who has experience in the particular procedure and is also well-versed with the hospital and it’s facilities.

Common Surgery Risks

Let us now look at some of the common risks seen

1. Anesthesia Complications during Surgery

While complications due to anesthesia is not common, if it occurs, it is a very serious complication. Usually, these complications occur during the intubation period (inserting of the breathing tube).

Aspiration i.e., breathing in food or fluid into the lungs, is also a very serious risk. Malignant Hyperthermia is a severe reaction to anesthesia where the body temperature rises rapidly during surgery.

2. Bleeding during Surgery

While some amount of bleeding is expected during surgery, if the rate of blood loss spikes above the standard level, a transfusion is required. If the level of risk is very high, the surgery may be terminated.

Keeping this in mind, you must be able to take a decision, especially if transfusions are against your religious code of conduct. In such cases, the option of bloodless surgery should be inquired about.

3. Blood Clots

DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis is the development of blood clots, which our body naturally produces to stop bleeding (in this case, during surgery)

While the clotting of blood is a savior to our bodies in case of cuts and scrapes, if it were to occur during a surgical procedure, it would be considered a critical situation. Especially if one of these clots were to travel through the bloodstream and cause a pulmonary embolus or stroke.

Blood clots may also occur due to inactivity while the patient is in recovery. Usually blood thinners like Heparin are introduced into the system, post-op to prevent such a situation.

4. Death

While the risk of surgery varies from procedure to procedure, death during surgery is a very real possibility on either side of the spectrum. Keeping this in mind, always be sure to ask if surgery is the only option and then, the risks of the procedure. This way, you can make an informed decision, after weighing all your pros and cons.

5. Healing

The healing process is different for each patient. This depends on the illness(es) they are recovering from, the current state of their body, the quality of attention they receive throughout the process etc.

If you were hospitalized with illness prior to the procedure, chances are you will have a lengthier recovery time. Also, if you are diabetic, your body may need more time to heal.

6. Breathing Problems

While you do not be on the ventilator long after your procedure, in cases where the patient has difficulty breathing post-op, they are left on the machine, or taken in for close monitoring. This case usually occurs when the patient suffers from a chronic illness, has a heart condition, or smokes.

7. Infections

When the skin is opened, you essentially break the wall that protects the inside of your body safe from the infections of the outside world. Even in the most sterile environments, the chances of infection are present.

If you are being operated because of an infection in the first place, chances of it spreading are high. Antibiotics are usually given to patients before and after surgery to minimize risk of infection.

8. Injury

While in surgery, even the most precise hands could slip up, causing damage to nearby organs. In most cases, it is not life threatening and can be fixed immediately, however, you must always go into surgery, knowing this risk.

The risk depends to an extent on the location of your procedure. Spinal cord and brain procedures cause higher risk of paralysis since the surgeon is working directly with your Central Nervous System.

By picking a surgeon with high success rates, you may increase your confidence in the hands treating you, but always keep in mind, there is always a chance for human error.