This may not come as a surprise, but your muscles, joints and brain aren’t the only body parts that will feel a little foggy after you have general anesthesia. A surprising hurdle for many patients after surgery is the inability to take a deep breath. This can have many implications. Supplemental oxygen can be required, until the lungs wake up, and if the alveoli (sacs deep in the lungs that can get stuck together unless a patient is able to take deep breaths), more serious complications, such as pneumonia, can result. The body desperately needs oxygen to heal, and without the ability to take deep breaths after your operation, you may be delaying your healing.
Deep breathing after surgery is especially important after abdominal surgeries and chest surgeries, or if you have had pulmonary problems in the past.
After your operation, you will receive an incentive spirometer so you can perform deep breathing exercises to “wake up your lungs.” You will not feel like doing them, but they are extremely important. Before I had my surgery, I did not do any deep breathing exercises, and I did find it surprisingly difficult to catch my breath and even talk with my normal voice for almost a week after surgery. My nurses were wonderful, but they were unable to convey how to properly use the spirometer. Only when my friend, an anesthesiologist, visited my room after my operation, was I properly taught how to use the device. This was about 36 hours after my procedure, and I felt like I was already behind the 8 ball by then. It took me weeks to feel like I could take a deep breath, which compromised my healing.
Lungs benefit from prehabilitation as much as the rest of your body, and the doctors at Victory Prehab will let you practice using a sterilized incentive spirometer and a will provide a sheet of breathing exercises, so that you can adequately prepare your lungs for the rigors of general anesthesia.