Having Surgery? Why Recovery Now Includes Chewing Gum In The Hospital

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Across Hartford HealthCare, surgery ain’t what it used to be. And that’s helping patients get better, faster.

With a new systemwide model called Enhanced Recovery After Surgery, recovery begins long before the patient arrives at the hospital. A new guidebook provided at pre-surgical visits advises patients to start training for surgery as though it’s an athletic event. In the weeks before surgery, patients are asked to eat healthier foods, increase their activity and cut back on smoking and alcohol use.

Remember when patients were told to stop eating and drinking 12 hours before an operation? No more. The new guidelines advise patients to drink a glass of apple juice or Gatorade an hour before arriving at the hospital. Dehydration, it turns out, is not good for recovery. These drinks provide the energy needed to get back to everyday life much faster.

Perhaps the most startling change appears during the recovery period, when patients are advised to chew gum shortly after surgery to help their digestive systems wake up after anesthesia.

And no more napping for hours in a post-anesthesia haze after settling in to your hospital room. The guidelines suggest that patients begin some gentle exercises, such as ankle rolls and knee bends, “as soon as you wake up.’’

Dr. Rekha Singh, chief of surgery at The Hospital of Central Connecticut, said the new approach encourages patients to be active participants in their care:

“We are empowering the patient to be part of the care team, along with the surgeons, residents, APRNs, physician assistants, nurses, patient care technicians, anesthesiologists, aides, surgical technicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, dietitians, social workers, care coordinators and environmental services technicians.”

Redefining surgery as a team sport also applied to developing best-practice guidelines. Previously, every hospital and even individual surgeons followed their own rules when caring for surgical patients. Surgical, anesthesia and peri-operative councils and physicians from HHC’s five hospitals came together to develop  the new system-wide, standardized approach.

The result, said Jay Encarnacion, quality nurse coordinator for Hartford HealthCare, is a unified approach that helps every member of the multidisciplinary team deliver the safest and highest quality of care to patients.

“Elective surgery doesn’t just include nurses and doctors,” Encarnacion said, “it involves nutrition, therapy, pre-admission testing, etc., and we’re all trying to talk the same language.”






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