Ensuring Effective Breathing Patterns Following General Surgery

If you have been scheduled to undergo general surgery, then you will need to visit your doctor for your "pre-op" visit. At this time, your doctor will answer your questions and address your concerns. You may also need to undergo certain medical tests such as a blood chemistry profile, a complete blood count, and a chest x-ray to determine if you are healthy enough to undergo your surgical procedure. Here are some ways to help ensure that you will quickly reestablish an optimal pattern of breathing following your surgical procedure.

No Eating Or Drinking After Midnight

Whether you are undergoing cardiovascular surgery, a hip replacement procedure, cranial surgery, or any type of abdominal surgery, general anesthesia will be administered. Unlike local anesthesia, where you are awake, general anesthesia puts you to sleep. You will also be intubated, which means that the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will insert a tube into your trachea either through your nose or through your mouth. This is to help keep your airway open for proper airflow.

When you are intubated, a machine breathes for you because once you are under general anesthesia, you cannot breathe on your own. Your pre-operative surgical instruction sheet will explain that you should avoid eating and drinking after midnight on the day of your general surgery. Doing so will help prevent food or liquid from being aspirated into your lungs while you are under general anesthesia. If food or liquids get into the lungs, you may be at risk for aspiration pneumonia and breathing problems. 

Deep Breathing And Coughing Exercises

You will need to perform deep breathing and coughing exercises following your general surgery. Your doctor or nurse will explain how to do them, and even though you may feel tired and sore from your procedure, these exercises are necessary.  They help re-establish an effective pattern of breathing following general anesthesia. If you have a surgical incision on your abdomen or chest area, holding a pillow over the site will provide support so that you can deep breathe and cough more comfortably. 

In addition to deep breathing, you will also be instructed to cough periodically to help clear your lungs of excess mucus that may have accumulated during and after your surgery. Deep breathing and coughing will help clear your lungs of secretions. When mucus and other secretions pool inside the lungs, microorganisms start to grow, raising your risk for bacterial or fungal infections of the respiratory system. 

If you are anticipating general surgery, consider the above interventions to help maintain an effective pattern of breathing. Following your physician's pre-operative and post-operative instructions will help ensure that you quickly recover so that you can get back to your normal routine as soon as possible.