Monday, March 23, 2009


Preparing for surgery helps you heal faster

When you are told that you need surgery, regardless of how minor it may be, you cannot help but feel some anxiety.

But when that anxiety becomes overwhelming, it may be doing more harm than you realize.

When we are stressed our body reacts with what is called the “the fight or flight response” -- in other words, acting as fast and strong as possible to get out of a bad situation. During this response systems that are not needed are pushed to the back burner -- like our digestive and immune systems.

Years ago a group of medical students were studied while undergoing stressful exams.

It was found that the students' T cells, a vital part of our immune system, were decreased in response to the stress.

These same students were shown simple relaxation techniques. When used, the techniques actually increased the number of T cells, even when re-exposed to another stressful situation.

Now we can apply this same thought process to the surgical realm. Learning how to engage the relaxation response helps to trigger the healing chemistries the body most needs to support healing.

At the Backus Hospital Center for Healthcare Integration (CHI), this concept is applied through its “Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster” workshop. The program teaches a four-step process for preparing for surgery.

The steps include:

- Relax to feel peaceful
- Visualize your healing
- Rally a support group.
- The fourth step is provided by the anesthesiologist, who provides healing statements during the surgery, which studies show greatly impacts patients’ recoveries. The need for pain medication is decreased by up to 50%, and you will be enhancing your own immune system to aid in the healing process.

Studies have shown that patients who go though these programs do better before, during and after their procedure. You will also gain valuable tools to help keep you healthy during any future crisis that may come your way. The program is ideally taken 1-3 weeks prior to surgery, although even a few days before is a great benefit.

Cindy Arpin is a registered nurse and Stroke Coordinator at The William W. Backus Hospital. This advice should not replace the advice from your physician. Email Ms. Arpin and all the Healthy Living columnists at or comment on their blog at

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