Friday, September 25, 2015

Surgery: An Integrative Approach to Preparing for and Recovering

Dear Readers,

Todd Humphrey, Practice Manager of Vaughan Integrative Medicine, compiled the information in this article. He had surgery more than 15 years ago to alleviate sleep apnea. The surgery included a septoplasty and a tonsillectomy. He wishes someone had given him this article; the pain was unbearable and the liquid antibiotics resulted in thrush. Knowing what he knows now, he’s certain that visualization would have made an incredible difference.

- Dr. Vaughan


According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 51 million inpatient procedures were performed in Ambulatory and Hospital Care clinics during 2010. Any type of surgery, including non-invasive procedures, is traumatic to the body. The benefits of surgeries clearly outweigh the inconveniences – including pain, reduced mobility, and a delay in returning to routine activities – that accompany surgical procedures. By following the following integrative tips, it’s possible to reduce these inconveniences.

Oxygen Therapy
The Jan-Jun 2011 issue of The National Journal of Maxillofacial Surgery included the article Supplemental oxygen therapy: Important considerations in oral and maxillofacial surgery. The study’s authors write in the introduction,

The administration of supplemental oxygen is an essential element of appropriate management for a wide range of clinical conditions; crossing different medical and surgical specialities [sic].

In this evidence-based era, there is a growing acknowledgement of oxygen as a drug with specific biochemical and physiologic actions, a distinct range of effective doses and well-defined adverse effects at high doses.

But this subject remains poorly understood and therefore inadequately practiced. However, the safe implementation of oxygen therapy with appropriate monitoring is an integral component of the Healthcare Professional’s role.

Oxygen therapy is an excellent way to both prepare the body for surgery and to help support the body’s healing process. Oxygen and nutrients from food are the primary ingredients used to create energy at the cellular level; they are the basis of all metabolic function. Oxygenating the body helps reduce inflammation and helps provide cells with the energy needed to fight infection, grow new cells, and repair tissue damage.

Integrative specialists acknowledge the benefits of supplemental oxygen. Oxygen can be administered though an oxygen concentrator and sometimes delivered as 100% oxygen through a canister. The most potent way to receive oxygen therapy is by using a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves a patient breathing condensed or pure oxygen while in a pressurized room or tube. Because the patient is under pressure, more oxygen is dissolved into the blood stream, providing more oxygen deeper into cellular tissue.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), first used in dive medicine to treat deep sea divers who returned to the surface too quickly, is now commonly used to treat serious infections and wounds that won’t heal. Some cancer centers and burn units utilize hard-sided hyperbaric oxygen chambers. Soft-sided chambers provide benefits of HBOT at a lower pressure and typically at a much reduced price.

To use HBOT to prepare for surgery, use the chamber at least once one or two days prior to surgery. The supplemental oxygen before surgery will help the recovery from general anesthesia with less occurrence or severity of some side effects. As soon after surgery as possible, continue with HBOT for a total of ten to 40 sessions depending on the degree of the surgery’s invasiveness. Post-surgery HBOT sessions provide supplemental oxygen to help reduce inflammation and support the immune system by fighting infection.

Nutritional Supplements
The majority of surgeons will recommend that patients discontinue all supplements prior to a surgery. While it is true that some supplements – especially those that thin the blood – should definitely be discontinued, other nutritional supplements can actually promote healing and lead to a shorter recovery time. Integrative and holistic practitioners with training in functional medicine can provide recommendations to support the affected organs and systems impacted by surgery and provide overall support for healing. Common instructions include:

Increase your Vitamin C. Studies indicate that as little as 250 mg of this antioxidant daily after surgery can reduce recovery time in half. Vitamin C offers support to the immune system and promotes healing. In most instances it is possible to significantly boost Vitamin C with no adverse reactions with surgery. For patients facing invasive procedures and people with compromised immune systems, a nutritional IV with high doses of Vitamin C can be the easiest and most effective way to support the body. Vitamin C supplementation and IV therapy can be started prior to and continue after surgery for most people. To boost Vitamin C levels prior to surgery, take between five and ten grams daily in divided doses the week leading up to surgery. Too much Vitamin C will result in a looser-than-normal stool and indicates that someone should back off on the dose but not stop taking it.

Take phosphatidylcholine. Phosphatidylcholine is a fat that is found in cod liver oil, eggs and lecithin. It is the thin outer layer of fat that enfolds the membrane of each cell in the body. Phosphatidylcholine is important during surgery recovery because it acts as the primary foundation for liver detoxification enzymes – the enzymes that process the multiple drugs that are used in anesthesia as well as clearing out any cells damaged by the surgical procedure.