Did you know that many doctors and nurses, at one point or another, have had anxiety and serious concern about the myriad of diseases that we as humans are exposed to? Imagine you are ready for a career helping other people and you begin to learn about how many ways there are to get sick – from genetic predisposition through infectious disease. It’s enough to send you over the edge.
As a result, as surgeons, we know all too well that times of widespread disease and great uncertainty, such as those we are dealing with now, can be anxiety inducing and downright scary. Plus, the days and weeks leading up to surgery are nerve wracking even when we don’t have a spreading health issue to contend with.
To that end, we are very sympathetic to patients who are concerned about having surgery due to the possibility of being affected by coronavirus. To be sure, nobody will force you to have surgery unless it is an emergency situation and surgery is the only option. However, we do want to reassure you that having surgery is unlikely to expose you to any pathogen or infectious disease while you are in our care.
First, every medical professional is highly trained in infection control. Yes, there is the possibility of an infected person walking through our hospital or office doors at any time, but you can be assured of an important reality. Any infectious person or potentially infected individual will be treated at the highest level and their surroundings will be appropriately disinfected and managed to minimize the possibility of community spread.
Second, both during your hospital stay and your recovery at home, you will be able to choose to minimize your contact with others. You won’t be going to the office, it’s unlikely you’ll be attending heavily trafficked areas and as a result you should minimize your risk simply by being away from potential sources of infection.
With that being said, the current coronavirus situation is very fluid and elective surgeries may be postponed at any time. We will be in contact with you to ensure you know if your procedure or office visit is affected.
Now a few thoughts on minimizing your risk
As it stands now, we are far more concerned about the possibility of infection inherent to surgery versus coronavirus. Anytime the skin is punctured, you increase your risk of infection. Be sure that you do not shave the surgical area in the days before your procedure. Further, be sure to wash your hands regularly and thoroughly every time you are working with an incision.
Try to lose some weight in the lead up to surgery if you are overweight or obese. Losing weight can reduce high blood pressure and blood sugar which are both contributing factors to surgical infection as well as potential risk factors of severe coronavirus infection.
Talk to your surgeon about your fears and concerns – it is important that you voice them and equally important that you listen to your surgeon very carefully. We have performed thousands of bariatric and general surgical procedures, and we know what to expect. There’s no need to torture yourself quietly before surgery because you have what you think is a dumb question – we are here to help.
What if you’re feeling sick?
If you are beginning to feel sick, chances are it is not coronavirus, but it could be the flu or common cold which have similar symptoms. Does this mean we will have to cancel surgery? It depends. First, it depends on the severity of the infection. If symptoms are still mild and the condition we are treating is severe, surgery may go forward. However, if your symptoms are severe, you are a high-risk surgical patient and the surgery can be postponed, we may opt to do so.
Most important is to have an open line of communication with your surgeon and our practice staff. There’s no shame in being scared or concerned about your well-being during surgery. We want you to rest assured that all of us here at MASJax as well as our operating room staff are dedicated to ensuring the very safest and most effective procedure.