Preparing for Surgery as an Asthmatic

Last updated: November 2022

I have a major surgery coming up in a few weeks, and as someone with severe asthma, I am already taking steps to get my lungs ready for surgery. Any kind of surgery can be tricky if you have breathing issues, but after going through a few surgeries in the last decade, these are some of the things I have found to make surgery easier on my lungs and give me peace of mind in the process.

Avoiding viruses or infections

My preparation starts a few weeks before surgery. Even before the surge of recent viruses, I was careful to protect my health leading up to surgery. But that's even more important now that we have superbugs circulating. For me, any kind of infection that involves my lungs can take weeks to months before I am better and stable enough to even consider surgery. So even though I’m a few weeks out, I carefully consider any outing that is not a doctor's appointment or absolute necessity.

Exercising my lungs

I have found that something as simple as walking is a great exercise to get my lungs in shape before heading into surgery. I have a dog who forces me to get out and walk multiple times a day, but before I had her I was purposeful about getting out to walk a few times a day before surgery. Walking helps me build up my endurance, making my heart and lungs better able to handle stress.

Preparing for surgery with my team

There are many different things discussed at a pre-op appointment, but I always make a point to talk to my anesthesia team about how my lungs have been doing in the weeks leading up to that appointment, which is usually a week or two before surgery is scheduled.

Talking to the anesthesia team about my asthma symptoms gives them a better idea of how my lungs will handle surgery, or if any part of the surgical plan needs to change. Being open and honest with the anesthesia team about my symptoms and control of asthma is so important because it’s what keeps me safe during and after my surgery.

Preparing my lungs with asthma breathing treatments

The morning before my procedure, I always give myself a few extra minutes in the morning to do a breathing treatment before I head to the hospital. Even if I have not been having any symptoms, a breathing treatment gives my lungs the opportunity to “wake up” as much as they can. Sometimes they will have me repeat a breathing treatment before taking me to the operating room because it puts my lungs in the best shape possible to handle the surgery.

Asthma treatments and tools ready!

Last but not least, I make sure that I have all of my tools at home ready and waiting for me when I’m discharged. I like to have my nebulizer set up and ready to go in case I need it. There is nothing worse than needing to do a breathing treatment after surgery and having to get it all set up because I was not prepared.

I try to place my machine in a spot that is within reach and have all of the medicines I might need for it easily accessible. I also pull out my incentive spirometer, which is a device I use to make sure I am taking full breaths, and have it nearby so I can use it throughout the day when I am awake. An incentive spirometer can be really important for someone with asthma because it can help prevent pneumonia from developing in the small airways.

A phrase I live by

Preparing my lungs and my environment for surgery gives me peace of mind heading into any procedure. I think the motto of the boy scouts is “always be prepared”. Although I am not a boy scout, it is a phrase I live by. You can never be too prepared for anything, but heaven forbid I am not prepared enough!

Have you ever needed to prepare for surgery?

What do you do for your asthma to get ready for surgery? Let us know in the comments!

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