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How to Prevent Deconditioning After Surgeries

How to Prevent Deconditioning After Surgeries

In 2019, it was revealed that elderlies in the US are increasingly getting complex surgeries. You might think about how can they survive the operating rooms, but data reflect this to be true. People over 65 accounted for 40% of people undergoing major surgeries related to lungs, pancreas, and more. Older patients are always at risk of increased mortality and other complications post-surgeries. One study on 165,600 adults over 65, getting major surgeries found that hospital stays were also lengthened with advancing age.

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This increased duration of immobility and bed-ridden state leads to a condition called deconditioning.

What is Deconditioning?

Physical inactivity for long durations can lead to early and rapid muscle loss. This is known as deconditioning, and its effects on the human body, especially bones, muscles, and the cardiovascular system can be disastrous. It has been seen, that reduced mobility and associated complications impair quality of living, and also lead to further diseases like sarcopenia, osteoporosis, and overall impaired quality of living. These conditions further make older people prone to falls and fractures.

The problem is exaggerated post-surgeries. For instance, elderly individuals who are hospitalized following abdominal surgeries spend 80% of their time in the post-operative phase on the bed, resulting in muscle wasting.

This condition can be managed to a great extent with geriatric physical therapy. Apart from reducing dependency on opioids, geriatric physical therapy can help restore mobility, and improve fitness levels in older patients.

Know that, this condition is not specific to older people. Deconditioning is a serious risk in modern societies with increased sedentary lifestyles.

Preventing Deconditioning After Surgeries

If you are suffering from this condition, know that a post-surgical reconditioning program including regular physical exercise can be used to counter this problem. Not all forms of exercise are suitable for this. High-impact exercise like running can lead to injuries. Low to moderate-intensity aerobic exercises at least 3 times a week can prevent loss of muscle mass, and provide strength to the body. Try to squeeze in 10 to 15 minutes of brisk walking. Try to weave in activities throughout the day like climbing stairs, or watering your plants.

A study reveals that a short and intensive jump training program can successfully preserve bone mass, elevate oxygen uptake capacity, and preserve maximal muscle force in 60 days of physical inactivity due to bed rest. Exercise improves strength, along with balance and coordination. However, make sure to consult your doctor before taking up any activity.

It is also important to get off pain medications as soon as possible. Opiate-based prescription drugs can lead to constipation, and leave you extremely lethargic. Not to mention, they are highly addictive.

Some other ways to minimize the impact of deconditioning include:

  • Frequent changes in position if the patient is severely incapacitated

  • Maintaining upright position

  • Deep breathing and coughing

  • Adequate water intake

  • Maintaining functional position of head, legs, feet, arms, and trunk

Deconditioning syndrome is often associated with emotional effects after physiological trauma. If you are feeling depressed during your convalescence period, know that it is normal. Physical health problems can significantly increase the risk of developing mental health issues, and vice versa. Proper counseling sessions with a registered mental health expert can bring a huge difference to your mood, and overall physical health.

With a proper post-surgery reconditioning program with experts, you can get on your feet within no time.


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