Monday, December 21, 2009


Preparation leads to better surgical outcomes

Our lives are filled with experiences and examples that teach us the importance of preparation in order to achieve success.

As schoolchildren, we learned study skills and how to prepare for exams. As we grew older, we also learned the importance of preparing physically by getting a restful night’s sleep and eating a healthy breakfast. Athletes and dancers attribute their success to a combination of training and visualizing their goals. We prepare in similar ways for the many milestones in our lives, and surgery should be no different.

When patients are asked how they prepared themselves for surgery, the most common response revolves around tying up loose ends related to family, work, or home. Meals are prepared in advance, the house is cleaned, and babysitters are arranged for. Yet through all this careful planning, most patients have neglected one key step to a faster recovery -- to prepare themselves emotionally.

For many people, the word “surgery” alone is a stressor. Added on top of regular daily stress factors, many patients report high anxiety levels pre-surgery. Studies have shown that long term or high stress levels negatively affect the immune system, and if not addressed can compromise the body’s natural power to heal. In order to reduce the fear and anxiety associated with surgery, patients need to become active participants in their healing.

Studies have shown that positive visualization assists with healing. Learning how to focus the mind to imagine to best possible outcome helps to release stress, and a short 20-25 minutes of deep relaxation or meditation can decrease anxiety, lower blood pressure and boost the immune system.

The William W. Backus Hospital offers a “Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster” program to teach patients how to approach surgery with confidence and calm. Ideally taken one to three weeks before a scheduled surgery, the program teaches guided imagery and relaxation techniques. Patients can even learn a quick five minute method to assess stress factors and remain calm throughout their daily schedules.

“Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster” is a 90-minute workshop that includes a book and CD. Patients learn how to use five healing steps to ease the recovery process and prepare for surgery emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Most patients who complete the program and apply the techniques see a marked reduction in their pre-surgery stress and in their recovery periods.

Preparation is essential for success in all areas of our lives; treat your body well by preparing for surgery as well.

Classes are held every Monday night at 5 p.m. at the hospital and every Wednesday afternoon at 2 p.m. at the Backus Outpatient Care Center. For more information or to register, call 860-889-8331, ext. 2163.

Paula Novak, a registered nurse and certified Healing Touch practitioner, is the Clinical Coordinator for Healing Touch and Integrative Care at The William. W. Backus Hospital. This advice should not replace the advice or instruction from your physician. E-mail Ms. Novak or any of the Healthy Living columnists at comment on this or other Healthy Living columns, click below or go to the Healthy Living blog at

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