a woman flexing her bicep while she pulls up her shirt to show her laproscopy scars

Preparing for Exploratory Surgery

Let me guess: you’ve spent years with abdominal pain that has no reason, or you’ve been told you just need to poop more and to take a laxative. Your periods consist of super heavy menstrual bleeding and the worst cramps that basically take you out of commission for days. The heating pad and medications like ibuprofen or Midol have become part of your daily routine.

Everyone says it’s just your period and can't be that bad. Even your PCP and your OBGYN just keep throwing different types of birth control at the problem to fix it to no avail.

Finally, after most likely years, you have come to the point that you tell your OBGYN that something has to be done because you can’t live this way any longer. So they agree and schedule you for an exploratory laparoscopy to go in and look around.  They tell you all the medical things, like exactly what and how they will perform the surgery and the risks and benefits, and so you sign the consent.

You go home once you are done with the procedure and meet the standard requirements to be discharged. These requirements include using the bathroom alone and eating and drinking without vomiting. 

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After you sign the discharge papers, out the door you go. But now what?

The nurses will tell you what to expect and why. Nobody ever tells you things you can do to make the whole process less scary and anxiety-inducing.

Preparing for surgery

After three or four laparoscopic procedures, I've learned a few things. While all of these suggestions are what have worked for me, they might not work for you. Always check with your doctor.

Things you can do to prepare your body for surgery:

Drink water and drink water some more

This will help the nurses or anesthesia team when it comes time to start your IV. Drinking lots of water causes increased volume, thus making your veins show up easier. Only do this if this is safe for you to do.

Have a good hearty, filling dinner and a late snack

Since you will likely be NPO (nothing by mouth) after midnight, having a good dinner will help to keep you from being super hungry in the morning. You can also set the alarm for 11:40 p.m. the evening before surgery to get one more snack in.

Take a shower

You will want to take a shower the night before. Hibiclens soap may be provided to you, but if not, you can pick it up at most pharmacies. When using the Hibiclens, you want to focus mainly on cleaning from your neck to your knees.

Take a second shower in the morning and put on clean, not previously worn, clothes.

What to bring with you to surgery

Pack a small bag

I know what you are thinking: it’s an outpatient surgery. Why do I need a bag?

Well, you just never know what may happen. In my first bag, I put things to do as I wait to go back for surgery. Chances are you won’t go back right at the time they said you would. 

There could be an emergency that came in when you were originally scheduled. Or the surgery before you could have gone long. So bring your iPad or book or whatever you do that will take your mind off things if you get nervous.

I also put my chargers or charger bank, earbuds, and chapstick. If you have a blanket that helps to reduce your anxiety, it is okay to bring it to the hospital as well. This is mainly stuff to keep me busy. 

You do want to keep this bag small because the person waiting for you will likely end up carrying it, plus the bag you put your clothes and shoes in and anything they may have brought.

Bring your own pads

This is something no one told me about. There is the possibility of vaginal bleeding following the procedure

That said, I always bring a couple of overnight pads with wings to be comfortable. No one wants to use a hospital-supplied pad.

Pack an overnight bag

This bag stays in the car because there is a very low chance you’ll need it. But it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. 

I bring something to sleep in this bag, one extra outfit, and travel-size toiletries. Don’t forget slippers bc no one wants to walk barefoot on a hospital floor.

Bring a pillow with you for the ride home. You can use it at home when you get home to walk around, as well as to brace when you have to cough or sneeze.

Stay on top of your pain

Set alarms if necessary to stay on track with any prescriptions your doctor prescribes. If you get behind on taking your pain medicine, getting your pain back under control takes a long time.

What about you? Is there anything that you would add to this list of items? Please share them in the comments below!

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