Every patient undergoing surgery wonders. "Is it
really necessary?" and "Will I recover from this operation?" No matter how
minor the procedure, a certain amount of natural anxiety exists as to the outcome. It is
unfortunate that with the growth of specialization in medicine, a lot of the personal bond
between patient and physician has been lost. Yet the modern surgeon is just as concerned
about you and your problems as the old-fashioned doctor used to be.
A surgeon is a busy person, sometimes too busy, to stop
and put his arm around you and tell you that everything is going to be all right. But he
is also a dedicated person; dedicated to the good health and happiness of the patients he
attends. He will always try to quell anxiety, dispel false fears, and tell the facts about
any risks which may be involved. And although something intimate may have been lost over
the years, something far more reassuring has been gained: the safety of surgery!
The safety of surgery has increased so greatly within the last century that risks today
have been reduced to minimal proportions.
The huge reduction in post-operative death and
complications is not accidental. The great increase in medical knowledge and the vastly
improved methods of teaching and training are largely responsible for this happy state of
affairs. Great surgeons trained pupils who eventually outshone them and they in turn
produced today's surgeons, who, in many instances, excel their predecessors. Truly, each
new generation starts where the old one has left off.
Over the past 20 to 30 years, measures have been found to overcome most of the great
dangers of surgery, so that today it is unusual for a patient to develop a complication,
which cannot be anticipated and/or controlled. Here is a list of these complications most
of which are avoidable and controllable by recent advances in medicine:
- Pneumonia: Hitherto, most feared
aftermath of a surgical procedure is now a readily controllable complication. More common
in elderly and/or in prolonged immobilization. Antibiotic therapy will usually return the
patient to normal within two or three days.
- Embolism: This breaking off of a blood
clot and traveling from a lower limb to the lung occurs much less frequently today because
of "early mobilization", means getting the patient out of bed and walking on the
first or second postoperative day. This activity keeps the circulation flowing at a more
normal rate and tends to prevent stagnation of blood, with the possible formation of a
blood clot (thrombus).
Should a thrombus, or even an embolus, develop; medicine has discovered excellent drugs to
prevent the process from spreading. By giving anticoagulants, mortality rates following
embolism have been reduced remarkably.
- Wound Infection: One of the finest
discoveries in the field of surgery has been the concept of anti-sepsis. Today, with
improved surgical techniques and the use of antibiotic drugs, this percentage has been
reduced greatly. In many large institutions where several thousand operations are
performed during the course of the year, it is not unusual to find that not a single
patient has died as a result of a complicating wound infection!
- Postoperative Bleeding and wound
rupture are exceedingly rare today, due to vastly improved suture materials,
better-trained surgeons, and the eradication of most wound infections