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The Impact On Post-Operative Recovery

There was a very popular television series that appeared from 1979-1988 called The Facts Of Life.  As I progress through a long career in medicine one of the “Facts of Life” that becomes apparent:  Pretty much every one of us has undergone or will undergo one or more surgeries.  These may range from very minor, non-threatening procedures such as skin cancer removals, arthroscopy knee surgery or a routine hernia repair to much more complicated/dangerous surgeries such as coronary artery bypass grafting, internal organ cancer removal or brain surgery.  Rare is the person that will not have a surgical procedure(s) performed during their lifetimes.

Post-operative recovery is very much impacted by the patient’s weight situation heading into the surgery.  Here are several post-operative complications that are seen with much higher frequency in people that are overweight/obese:

  • Heart attack (5x non-obese rate)
  • Peripheral nerve injury (4x)
  • Wound infection (1.7x)
  • Urinary tract infection (1.5x)
  • Deep venous thrombosis
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Pulmonary embolus

Focusing specifically on orthopedic surgeries involving the weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips and ankles, losing weight before the surgery will be very beneficial in the post-operative recovery and rehabilitation. For every pound lost there are four pounds of pressure taken off of the weight-bearing joints and this can produce a huge difference in post-op recovery.

The bottom line:  Very few of us will avoid a surgery(s) in the future.  Controlling weight now will help post-operative recovery and lessen the suffering/pain that usually accompanies surgery and the post-op period.  Yet another reason to take weight control efforts seriously.

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