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Colorectal Surgery Preparation and Recovery

Colorectal surgery alleviates damage to the colon, rectum, and anus. There are many reasons why a person might require this surgery. These include various issues with the lower digestive tract, such as cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, obstruction, compromised blood supply, or an injury. Some conditions may require a minimally invasive surgery, while others may require a more critical procedure.

Here's what you can expect if you or a loved one has colorectal surgery.

How to Prepare for Surgery

About a month before surgery, you'll have a presurgery appointment. Your surgeon will explain the procedure, how it's performed, why it's necessary, and its benefits and risks. Your doctor will also discuss presurgical preparations and which medications you can take on the morning of your surgery. You should ask any questions you have regarding your colorectal surgery preparation and recovery at this appointment.

Before surgery, your doctor will order presurgical testing: blood and urine tests, an electrocardiogram (EKG), and possibly an X-ray, ultrasound, or other tests. Your doctor may also recommend that you see other health care providers to plan your care.

You may also want to consider a health care proxy form before surgery. According to the National Institutes of Health, this is a legal document identifying a health care agent who may speak for you if you're unable to communicate for yourself. If you opt to do this, bring copies of the form to the surgery center.

A week prior to surgery, stop taking certain medications. Aspirin, drugs containing aspirin, and NSAIDs can decrease blood clotting and increase bleeding risks during surgery. Discontinue herbal remedies and supplements, as well. Never stop any prescription medication without talking with your doctor first.

Your doctor will tell you which supplies to purchase for preparation and recovery. You'll be able to buy these at your local pharmacy.

The Day Before Your Surgery

Follow your doctor's colorectal surgery preparation instructions. During your bowel preparation, don't eat solid foods, but be sure to drink plenty of clear liquids. Try drinking at least eight ounces every hour you're awake. If you were prescribed antibiotics, take them as instructed. Consider applying zinc oxide ointment to your skin around your anus after every bowel movement to help prevent irritation.

The Day of Your Surgery

Don't eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. If your doctor instructed you to take certain medications on the morning of your surgery, take them with a small sip of water. Don't wear any lotion, cream, deodorant, makeup, powder, perfume, contact lenses, or jewelry.

Arrive an hour or two before your surgery time to complete the necessary preoperation preparations. A nurse will place an intravenous line in your arm or hand to give you medications and fluids during your surgery. You'll also have a urinary catheter to drain urine from your bladder. An anesthesiologist will discuss with you the kind of anesthesia you'll receive, if needed. Once you're asleep, a breathing tube will be placed into your mouth to help you breathe.

After the Procedure

Hospitalization time varies by procedure and whether or not there are complications, but it's generally four to seven days. Discharge to your home or a skilled nursing facility requires that you're eating adequately, having bowel movements, and tolerating your oral pain medications.

If you experience pain, your doctor will provide pain medication. As your incision heals, you'll experience less pain and require less medication.

It's important to properly care for your incision after you're discharged. Your incision location and size will depend on your procedure. Your incision may be closed with surgical glue, sutures, or staples, and will have started healing by the time you're discharged. If you have sutures or staples, they may be removed the morning you're discharged. If you go home with staples or sutures, you'll need to return to your doctor's office to have them removed.

Be careful when it comes to your bandages. Wash your hands with soap and water before and after touching them. Change your bandages daily and more often if they become wet with drainage.

Check your incision daily for signs of infection. Always clean your hands with soap and water before you touch your incision and don't allow anyone to touch it. You should call your doctor if you develop signs of a surgical wound infection. These include fever, puslike drainage from your incision, or redness, swelling, increased pain, or warmth around incision.

With early diagnosis and treatment, many colorectal diseases and disorders can be averted or managed. If your doctor has recommended colorectal surgery, your colorectal specialist will work with you and your family to provide attentive care and treatment to ensure the best possible outcome.

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