All surgeries, from routine gallbladder removal to heart transplants, are a major stress on the body and come with varying amounts of risk. The type of anesthesia (use of medicine to control pain and, in some cases, induce sedation during surgery) chosen is dependent on many factors, including an individual’s ability to withstand certain drugs.
That’s why having a physical before a procedure can be critical. For medical teams to take patients through surgery safely, they need information—on general health, surgical and health history, family history, current medications and allergies. This reduces the chances of complications because it allows doctors to determine if the body is fit to undergo the surgery and to choose the right course of anesthesia.
At a pre-operative physical, the doctor reviews all medications and allergies. It’s especially important to inform the physician if there’s an allergy or any personal or family history of problems with anesthesia. Patients with these risk factors can be in grave danger when they are put under. The doctor also pays particular attention to the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, which need to be in the best shape possible for successful use of anesthesia. The examination also includes some or all of the following:
- Check vital signs (temperature, blood pressure, pulse, body mass index, respiratory rate)
- Assess risks associated with gastrointestinal tract
- Check for musculoskeletal malformations/disorders
- Check for skin infections
- Airway assessment
- Blood tests
If there is a concern related to the cardiovascular system, the patient may be referred to a cardiologist for further testing. The stress on the heart during surgery increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, so conditions such as hypertension need to be addressed before the patient goes “under the knife” to minimize these risks.
Being well informed helps a physician weigh the risks versus benefits of the particular surgery, giving patients the best shot at coming through with flying colors.