What You Should Know About Emergency Surgery

If you’re lucky, you’ll never need to undergo any surgery, emergency or otherwise. Even so, it’s a good idea to know something about emergency surgery. According to the CDC, 29 percent of hospital visits result in surgery and fifty-four million surgical procedures are performed each year. So, what should you know about emergency surgery?

Emergency surgery is defined as a medical emergency that can only be solved with surgery. Some of these procedures are fairly standard and not considered life-threatening, like appendectomy or setting a broken bone. Others belong to broad categories, like trauma surgery after an accident. Still, more of them are life-threatening events, like cardiac tamponade or a ruptured aneurysm. Most of these conditions are diagnosed in the ER itself. Immediate care is given to stabilize a patient as much as possible before the surgery. Diagnostic tests are performed to indicate if surgery is needed.

One difficulty from emergency surgery is the problem of general anesthesia. Anyone who has had elective surgery will know that the patient is not supposed to eat for twelve hours before the procedure. This is for a good reason: if the stomach isn’t empty, it’s possible for the patient to vomit and aspirate. Since being put under a general anesthetic is in itself enough to make a patient vomit, any patient who is not known to have an empty stomach is treated with special care, even to the point of removing stomach contents by tube.

After the surgery, the patient will need additional assistance because, unlike with elective surgery, emergency surgery doesn’t involve a post-care plan the patient knows about for obvious reasons. For that reason, the patient should listen to the doctor and any other medical professionals involved in their case and not attempt something they were warned not to attempt for a certain time.

Kurt Angle’s emergency surgery on his spine is in the news now and provides a good example of one need for it. While the initial procedure to remove a benign neck tumor was voluntary, soon after he lost sensation in his arms and legs (a sign of nerve paralysis). Thankfully, the loss of sensation was merely due to a build-up of spinal fluid, and he is expected to fully recover. Earlier this year, Jimmy Fallon also underwent emergency surgery for a hand injury. This may not seem a thing that requires emergency surgery, but in this case it could only be corrected by immediate surgery.

(Photo stock image via Pixabay.)