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What should you know about pain killers after surgery?

Recovering from major surgery is an active process that typically takes 6 weeks. Surgical pain is normal and expected, but the pain experience may be different for individuals. Since pain can interfere with your ability to participate in activities to prevent complications (coughing, deep breathing, walking), treating pain is critically important for a successful surgical recovery. Many patients are afraid to take prescription narcotics or “pain killers” because they do not want to become “addicted.” However, untreated pain can lead to the development of permanent pain pathways to the brain, which can delay your recovery and possibly even result in chronic pain.

Narcotic use varies among individuals and there is a big difference between drug dependence and addiction. Dependence is when the body has become accustomed to the medication. This can occur anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks after you start taking pain killers regularly, like after surgery. Addiction, however, generally implies that the medication or substance is interfering with your life in some way. You can become dependent on pain killers during your surgical recovery, but with medical management of your withdrawal from these medications, you will avoid addiction. It is important to use your prescription pain killers as directed to avoid overuse. On the other hand, you do not want to avoid using pain killers when you need them to remain comfortable and active. Stopping your pain killers “cold turkey” can be dangerous and it may cause considerable discomfort. The surgical team will work with you to develop a plan to wean you off your pain killers gradually and safely, at a time when you are ready.

The universal goal is to taper as quickly as your physical, mental and emotional status allows. Since there is ....

Is Robotic Surgery Right For You?

In recent years, there has been a surge in the popularity of robotic surgery. This is an exciting new technology that is being actively used by many specialists here at Swedish. In General Surgery, we have been using a minimally invasive approach called laparoscopy for many years. This allows us to use smaller incisions, giving the patient much less pain and a quicker recovery.  Robotic surgery is very similar.

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about robotic surgery:

Are incisions smaller with robotic surgery than with laparoscopy?

No. The incisions are pretty much the same. As a patient, you might not be able to tell much of a difference from the surface.

Do the robotic instruments allow the surgeon to perform a better operation?

Activity after open or laparoscopic abdominal surgery

Every patient who visits my office with a surgical condition has several decisions to make and has a lot of information to absorb and understand.

I typically spend much of our time together describing the condition itself, why I recommend surgery, how I will perform the surgery and any risks involved in the procedure. While this is all critical to anyone’s understanding of their treatment plan, once the decision has been made to proceed with surgery, many patients’ concerns quickly turn to their recovery and what to expect after surgery. Most patients want to know when they can get back to walking, lifting, exercising, and their normal daily routine. While every patient and procedure is different, some generalizations can be made to help you know what to expect.

General abdominal surgery can broadly be separated into two categories: 1) open surgery where a large incision is made through the abdominal wall and 2) laparoscopic (or robotic) surgery where the procedure is preformed through multiple small incisions. Both types of surgery are used for a wide array of surgical problems.

The recovery from these two types can be different. Every patient should ask their surgeon wound care questions, dietary restrictions or signs of possible complications specifically related to their recommended procedure. There will be activity restrictions in the early postoperative period for all surgical procedures.

Many people wonder why we limit activity after ..

The Goal of DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) Surgery

I met with several patients this week to discuss their personal journey to making the decision to pursue DBS surgery. Not surprisingly, they were well educated about their disease and treatment options.

Each patient reminded me that there is a lot of information and misinformation about surgery for movement disorders.

The most important advice I can give any patient or family is...

Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Patient Featured in Fortune Magazine Article on Robotic-Assisted Surgery

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SEATTLE, Jan. 22, 2013 - Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute cardiothoracic surgeon Eric Lehr, M.D., and one of his patients were interviewed for an article on robotic-assisted surgery that appears in the Feb. 11 issue of Fortune magazine.

Liposuction Surgery

Liposuction is a cosmetic surgical procedure that sculpts and shapes the tummy, flanks, hips, thighs, arms and neck performed by Dr. Scott Sattler, plastic surgeon in the Seattle metro area

Why you should have your hernia repaired

Do you have a groin bulge that seems to come and go, often absent upon waking in the morning? Or perhaps you already know you have a hernia? Hernias are very common and occur in approximately 1 in 4 males (less common in women), so chances are you or someone you know has or has had an inguinal hernia. The main question I always get asked is "should it be fixed?"  

As a general surgeon, I see 4-5 patients every week with a newly diagnosed inguinal hernia. Many are self-referred after discovering a lump in the groin, while many others are referred from their primary care provider after the hernia is discovered during the physical exam. After verifying that a hernia is the correct diagnosis (other possibilities are a groin strain, swollen lymph node, etc.), I have a discussion which addresses the aforementioned question. As an aside, these are very common and also found in the pediatric population (see a similar discussion by one of our pediatric surgeons)

To understand hernias...

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