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Personal Hygiene and Surgical Procedures

By: Jo Johnson - Updated: 24 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Surgical Procedures; Pre-operative;

It is important to remember that by maintaining good personal hygiene practices before an admission to hospital, the possibility of developing a post-operative wound infection is decreased. Many patients do not realise that their hygiene habits can have significant effects on their recovery process.

Pre-Operative Measures

It is often worth considering ensuring a thorough cleansing process is performed prior to going into hospital. Consideration of the operative site is important. If a laparoscopy is indicated for example, a patient could ensure the navel (where the camera is inserted) is cleaned to prevent external bacteria from entering the abdominal cavity. Although all surgical sites are cleaned with special solutions prior to the operation commencing, extra precautionary measures should not be overlooked.

Ensuring nails are clean and short will help to inhibit bacterial growth that may be transferred to a wound later on.

If you regularly remove hair from legs, underarms, bikini area etc. it may be worth doing this the day before the operation. After a surgical procedure you may not feel up to or may be unable to do this for a while, until you start feeling better.

Removal of nail polish from both fingers and toes is recommended, this is necessary for the monitoring equipment to be able to pick up signals from your fingers and nail beds. If it is not removed, hospital staff will probably enforce it at some stage.For ladies who are worried about their menstrual needs, it is not problematic as many patients are menstruating when in theatre. The ward staff will be able to provide special paper underwear and sanitary wear that is safe for use in theatre. Your own underwear is not permitted due to health and safety reasons.

If you are having a complicated procedure, where a lengthy stay is warranted, a good hair cut and wash will help you feel better post-operatively and can speed up your recovery by allowing for good self-esteem.

When Going into Hospital

Remember to take clean and loose pyjamas if an over night stay is likely. Do not take restrictive clothing as you may be unable to put them on or remove them easily.

Take a toiletry bag with toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, washcloth and any other personal items that are familiar to you. The use of perfume is not a necessity and may be restricted depending on the type of operation you are having; many fertility procedures do not permit the use of deodorants or perfumes on either patients or staff.

Take slippers and a dressing-gown to allow you to be mobile if you want to be. These items allow you free movement around the ward, if allowed, reducing the transmission of dirt and germs from the floor.

Post-Operative Expectancies

When you have come out of the operating theatre and are ready to inspect what has been done, expect to see some skin-cleansing solution that has remained; this is often brown in colour due to the iodine content.

You may have had some hair removed (especially noticeable in men), to allow the surgeon full and safe access to the surgical site, but often on other areas where specialist equipment has been placed; this event is likely to have been discussed with you previously.

After any operation, particularly those involving the use of a general anaesthetic, you may feel sleepy and drained for some time. It is quite acceptable to perform a simple wash of the hands, face, groin and feet until you feel ready to bathe or shower.

Oral hygiene should be maintained, especially after being nil by mouth pre-operatively and often a good tooth-brushing can make a big difference in how you are feeling.

Do not attempt to remove dressings, pull at drains etc., the nurses are trained in aseptic technique for wound management and will redress and inspect the wound when required.

Going into hospital for an operation is a stressful event without the worry of hygiene needs. Remember to take enough provisions for an overnight stay, and do not be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to.

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