3 Things You Should Know Before Having Surgery
Updated: Mar 30
From 9x Surgery Survivor and Author, Jenna Minecci (@jennactive)
Let's set the stage, it's the quarterfinals and your high school soccer team is on the brink of victory. Your teammate crosses the ball to you and just when you’re about to kick the game winning goal.....POP!!!!! you tear your ACL. It's not supposed to end like this... but now it’s time to have a major knee surgery and what do you do?
Typically, most people find a surgeon in your network, book an appointment, meet with the doctor and schedule out an operation. We have all heard our fair share of terrible surgery stories from friends and loved ones so why haven’t we changed our approach to having surgery?
With countless surgeons, new techniques, and updated devices appearing each year, why are most of us still unprepared? With an influx of online information and more technology than ever, one would think it would be a simple task to research and understand how to receive the best care for the best long-term outcome after a major surgery.
Think about it, we have so many resources available to us in order to self-diagnose, self-prepare and be self-aware; yet most patients entering surgery are hoping for the best and simply trusting the process.
Isn’t this backwards?
Think of surgeons as mechanics for our body; most of us do thorough research when it comes to our cars because there is so much stigma around bad parts and bad service; but why not do the same for your body and health?
Here are the Top 3 Things You Should Know Before Having Surgery:
1. Do your research.
Even though surgical technology is far more advanced than it was thirty years ago, not all procedures, techniques, devices, or surgeons are created equal. Your quality of life, long term, is extremely important and can be dependent on small variables in your procedure. These variables can determine whether your operation will be successful but also effective for your body and it’s unique needs and characteristics for your long-term goals. Become a student of your procedure: how it is performed, the goal of the operation, and how successful the surgery is. Understand the different options you have regarding techniques, devices, or graft types used because those can vary surgeon-to-surgeon. Become well versed in the advantages and disadvantages of all these options because it can drastically affect your outcome. Do your homework, so that you
can be involved and informed in the decision making process. This is your decision, choose wisely by researching and educating yourself.
2. Be your own advocate.
After doing your research, you can now become an educated decision maker in your surgical process. Get involved! Communicate with your surgeon and, if possible, seek opinions from multiple surgeons accessible to you. Ask your friends, colleagues, and neighbors for advice and recommendations. Discuss and interview surgeons so you can be involved in the process. By doing all of this you allow yourself to make the best possible decision for your surgery, who
performs it, and how they do it.
Here are some great questions to ask:
- How many cases do they perform each year? Look for a surgeon in a large city who performs at least 50 to 100 per year. If they are not doing a minimum of one of these operations each week then there is someone out there better suited for the job.
- Are they sports medicine trained? (for sports injuries)
- Did they do a specific fellowship where they learned how to do this operation?
- Do they have any long-term outcome studies with this procedure?
- Do you have a former patient I could talk with?
- Are they a specialist in this operation? Do they recommend someone more appropriate for your needs?
- Have they had success with other patients of similar histories and long term goals as you?
The more you become a part of the discussion the better prepared you will be for your surgery. This process will continue post operatively as your surgeon will perform your procedure, and then it
is up to you to ensure you receive high quality rehabilitation and a full recovery. Knowledgeable and proactive patients take better time and care with their recoveries and end up having more adherence to physical therapy and rehabilitation. Knowledge is your power!
3. Be mentally and physically prepared.
There will be obstacles and setbacks. This will temporarily turn your life upside down. Are you ready for this? Have you prepared yourself and the life around you to achieve the best possible outcome after surgery? Don’t rush this process, take time to get through the surgery and back to your life.
Carefully and meticulously think about your responsibilities: your work schedule, kids, pets, your living and sleeping situation (while on crutches), food, and other daily needs that you might need help with. How are you going to finance this? What is your plan for recovery, physical therapy, and at home care? This will take planning, support, and great execution to allow for a less stressful recovery environment.
Your outcome, experience with surgery, and recovery will be directly correlated with your mental and physical strength. Recovery is not a linear progression. There will be setbacks and extremely hard moments so begin preparing your mindset for the daunting challenge to stay disciplined and focused during your rehabilitation. Mindset training was a huge piece of my recovery which allowed me to stay focused, not give up or feel depressed, or worse go too fast with my
recovery. Additionally, physical strength is absolutely necessary at this point. Even if you have limitations heading into surgery, in most cases it helps tremendously to take time pre-op to
strengthen your core and be as strong and flexible as possible before going under the knife.
There are many simple pre-surgical exercises that can be recommended to prepare you, which will only help as you typically return to these same simple exercises shortly after your surgery. Recovery from surgery is largely impacted by your health and diet so taking time before surgery to implement better nutrition habits, healthier sleeping habits, and losing some of that stubborn weight to help your efforts post-op. Navigating crutches, loss of mobility and strength, and regaining function will also be much easier if you are in good shape. Take all of these factors into consideration when planning out a surgery date and allow yourself the timing to adjust and prepare yourself for success.
You deserve the best!
Always remember, don’t take surgery lightly. Prepare, plan, research, get involved and be your own advocate! A healthy body has a better post-surgical outcome. Mindset is everything and Motion is Lotion! If you need any help, advice, or inspiration; I am always here to help.
Always be positive!
9x Surgery Survivor/Strength Coach/Author/Athlete
B.S., CPT, CES, PES, FMS, MWod Pro
Jenna Minecci is a passionate Personal Trainer and Strength Coach dedicated to helping others prevent injury, prepare for surgery and recover exceptionally from any surgery they have. After having 4 ACL reconstructions fail on her as a teenager, she has now had 9 surgeries and counting. Her goal is to educate and empower others facing difficult surgeries and recovery journeys. She currently works at Lifetime Fitness in Atlanta, Georgia where she specializes in Corrective Exercise, Knee Rehabilitation and ACL Injury Prevention.
She is also the author of the book Surviving 7: The Expert’s Guide to ACL Surgery.
Follow Jenna on social media @Jennactive.
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