Gastrectomy: Before Your Surgery

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What is a gastrectomy?

Gastrectomy is surgery to remove all or part of the stomach. It is often done to remove tumours or areas with ulcers. In some cases, the doctor may also cut the nerves that signal the stomach to make acid. This is called a vagotomy.

The doctor will close the cut (incision) in your belly with stitches or surgical staples. These will be removed 7 to 10 days after surgery.

After surgery, your stomach will be smaller than before. This means that you will get full more quickly when you eat. You may need to change the way you eat so that you get enough nutrition. Drink fluids between meals instead of with meals. You may need to eat 5 or 6 small meals each day instead of 2 or 3 large meals.

Most people go home 4 to 5 days after surgery. You will probably be able to return to work or your normal routine in 4 to 6 weeks.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What happens before surgery?

Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.

Preparing for surgery

  • Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
  • Tell your doctors ALL the medicines, including natural health products, such as vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some of these can increase the risk of bleeding or interact with anesthesia.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if you should stop taking these medicines before your surgery. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Your doctor will tell you which medicines to take or stop before your surgery. You may need to stop taking certain medicines a week or more before surgery. So talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
  • If you have an advance care plan, let your doctor know. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets your doctor and loved ones know your health care wishes. Doctors advise that everyone prepare these papers before any type of surgery or procedure.

What happens on the day of surgery?

  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be cancelled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
  • Take a bath or shower before you come in for your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
  • Do not shave the surgical site yourself.
  • Take off all jewellery and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.

At the hospital or surgery centre

  • Bring a picture ID.
  • The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
  • You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. You will be asleep during the surgery.
  • The surgery will take about 1 to 3 hours.
  • After surgery, the bowel usually "rests" for a few days before it starts working again. You may have a thin plastic tube in your nose that goes into your stomach. This tube drains stomach juices and prevents nausea. The drainage usually looks green, brown, or even black with flecks of blood. The tube will be removed in a few days, after your bowels start working again. After the tube is removed, you can start drinking and eating again.

Going home

  • Be sure you have someone to drive you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine make it unsafe for you to drive.
  • You will be given more specific instructions about recovering from your surgery. They will cover things like diet, wound care, follow-up care, driving, and getting back to your normal routine.

When should you call your doctor?

  • You have questions or concerns.
  • You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
  • You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
  • You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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