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Pre operative nerves; how to relieve anxiety before surgery


Pre surgery jitters are very normal; even if you are excited about your procedure and the changes it will bring, it can be hard not to worry about the operation, the possible risks and recovery. 

Whether you are having day surgery or a lengthy inpatient stay, these feelings are to be expected in the days or weeks leading up to your procedure.

Severe anxiety can cause unpleasant symptoms and stress.

Typical symptoms include a pounding heart, a racing heart, irregular heartbeat, nausea or stomach cramps, shortness of breath and sleep problems.

plastic surgery nurse comforting patient

Anxiety can make pain worse, as well as making it harder to cope with the pain. It also becomes a problem if it makes it harder to understand and remember important things you are told about the operation, such as advice about your recovery afterwards.

It’s important to make sure that anxiety doesn’t become too overwhelming before your surgery, or impact negatively on your headspace or emotional preparation. Although there is not much research on strategies for managing pre surgery anxiety, some evidence suggests that certain measures can help:

  1. Learn how your pre operative nerves are affecting you. Anxiety increases your heart rate, blood pressure and keeps you awake. Over time, most people learn how to manage their anxiety and frightening situations. They develop suitable strategies to cope with what is causing the anxiety. Going into the hospital and having an operation is often a completely new situation, so you might emotional and practical support from friends and family too.
  2. Talk to other people. People cope with pre operative anxiety in different ways. Some try to prevent it by obtaining information and talking with other people about their concerns. Others use distraction techniques such as reading, exercise or deep breathing. Several studies have suggested that listening to music before surgery can relieve anxiety.
  3. Let your surgeon and hospital staff know how you are feeling. You won’t be the first person to come to hospital feeling anxious and a good surgical team will be skilled in techniques to put patients at ease and make them feel comfortable.
  4. Utilise relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation or muscle relaxation. Massages, acupuncture, homeopathy, aromatherapy or hypnosis aren’t scientifically proven anxiety treatments – but many patients find them beneficial in the lead up to surgery.
  5. Medication can assist. Talk to your trusted GP or psychiatrist about whether your anxiety requires medication management. Benzodiazepines are often used for the purpose of relaxing patients and reducing anxiety. They might also make you feel drowsy. It is important to tell your surgeon or anaesthetist if you already took a sedative before arriving at the hospital.

Smoking or vaping before surgery! Many people who smoke tend to smoke even more when they’re feeling worried. But smoking during the lead up to surgery can increase the risk of post operative complications, delayed wound healing and unfavourable scarring. Stop smoking at least 6 weeks before surgery and talk to your GP about obtaining support to break the habit while dealing with pre operative nerves.

Have questions regarding surgery? Call our friendly team on 07 3202 4744, we’d love to assist.

The information contained in this article in general in nature and does not constitute medical advice.