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First Surgery | Hysterectomy

From the Pre-Op Hysterectomy Articles List

First surgery - hysterectomyI’ve never had surgery before, so I don’t know what to expect. What will happen when I get to the hospital? What happens when I go into surgery?

When you get to the hospital, you will check in, and you may have to register or show them your insurance card. Sometimes this is already done over the phone a day or two before, but sometimes not. The staff will put a wristband on you that has your name, your birth date, your doctor’s name and your surgery date. There might be other information on it, but at least those 4 pieces of information are pretty standard. After this, you will probably wait a bit until they call your name.

When you get called, a nurse will bring you into the preparation room, sometimes called phase 1, prep, or pre-op. Here you will get into a lovely hospital gown and slippers or socks. Some hospitals provide a robe, others give you a second gown to put on like a robe. At this point, even if you’ve brought your own, I’d suggest using the hospital gown. There’s plenty of time later to wear your own and surgery can get messy. The nurse will be asking a lot of questions. Common questions include your medical history (if you’re diabetic, have high blood pressure, heart problems, etc), any medications you’re allergic to, any previous surgeries, any medications you take currently, height, weight, and when was the last time you ate or drank anything. You will probably be asked these questions 3 or 4 times by different people and you may think, “well, why don’t they just look in my chart?!” It’s because each person wants to hear it from you directly. There are also plenty of times when, after the second or third series of questions, you might give a slightly different answer or remember that your mother told you she got really sick from anesthesia 10 years ago.

It’s important that you answer these questions honestly, even if they’re embarrassing. How you answer them could influence how much or what kind of medication they give you. If you have had anything to eat or drink, even chewing gum or hard candy, they may have to postpone the surgery an hour or more. The problem is that the anesthesia can be nauseating, and if you throw up during surgery, you could inhale it and get severe pneumonia.

Depending on the hospital, the nurse may start your IV in the preparation room. Some hospitals have the operating room nurse or technologist start the IV. It all depends on their protocol. Some hospitals will first give you a tiny shot of Novocain—it feels like a bee sting—to numb the area where the IV will be inserted. Some people prefer this method, others just want one poke. At first the IV will only be saline or some other base fluid, and no, the needle from the IV doesn’t stay in, only the small plastic catheter. There’s no medication yet, only fluids to keep you hydrated. At some point, perhaps in the prep room, perhaps in a holding area just outside the main Operating Room (OR) hallways, you will meet your anesthesiologist and your nurse anesthetist if there is one. They will work as a team, making sure you stay just unconscious enough throughout your surgery. Again, they will ask you the same questions and probably add a few of their own. Before you go into the operating room, you will probably also see your doctor(s) briefly. After you’ve answered all the questions and met everyone, you may be given a sedative before you go into the OR. Some hospitals and doctors wait until you’re in the room itself, others will do it beforehand. If you really want to be aware of what’s going on and see the OR clearly, you can ask them to wait until you’re in the room for the sedative. They may say no, but at least you can ask. One of the purposes of the sedative is to induce a chemical/medical amnesia, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t remember anything after it’s given. It will also make you dizzy and loopy.

When you get into the OR, it will be very cold and there will be lots of people. No, it’s not just because you’re in a flimsy hospital gown. It really is cold. They keep the temperature low because the equipment and lights heat up the room and those sterile gowns that everyone wears can get really hot. The OR bed, they call it a table, will look very narrow. Don’t worry, you won’t fall off. They use a large Velcro strap to secure you. You will transfer to the table, and several nurses and techs will work very fast and begin connecting you to various machines that monitor your heart, breathing, blood pressure and other functions. Once you are completely hooked up to every machine imaginable and feel like you can receive radio signals from Russia, the anesthesiologist will give you more medicine and you will quickly go to sleep.

If you plan to have an epidural or spinal, you will likely get it when you go into the OR, before you’re asleep. The Anesthesiologist should explain everything as they go. S/he will have you sit on the edge of the table and hunch over, bending your back like an angry cat. S/he will use a cold, sterile soap and sponge to wash your lower back 3 or 4 times. The anesthesiologist will give you a tiny shot of Novocain (same as the IV) to numb an area of your lower back and then will insert the needle for the epidural/spinal. You may feel a jolt down your leg and the anesthesiologist will adjust the placement of the needle. The needle doesn’t stay in, but a tiny catheter will and that will deliver the medicine to numb you from the waist down. Once this is done, you will lie down and be given a sedative and go off into sleepy land very quickly.

You will wake up in the recovery room and, except for pain, be completely unaware that everything is over. Remember that chemical amnesia? It works. In fact, you will probably ask the nurses several times if it’s really over. Don’t worry, nobody will think you’re nuts. It’s part of the waking up process. The nurses will probably be talking loudly and tapping your shoulder to try and wake you up more. You may have a large plastic sheet over you that is filled with hot air. It’s just warming you up. Other things they use to warm you are warm blankets over your body or around your head. Really, they’re kept in a large warming cabinet and they actually feel very warm.

After you’re awake enough, that is, you can maintain your own temperature, nibble some ice chips without feeling nauseated or throwing up, and your blood pressure and heart rate are close to normal, you will be brought to your room. Nurses there will ask you more questions and get you settled into your bed and comfortable, at least as comfortable as possible. You will probably doze off and on for the next day or so and you may not remember much.

This content was written by a member of HysterSisters.com as a non-medical professional based on discussions, resources and input from other patients for the purpose of patient-to-patient support.

02-26-2008 - 03:05 PM


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