How to Prepare for Surgery

Nutrition for Surgery Prep | Abbott Nutrition

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Preparing for Surgery

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JAN. 25, 2020   2 MIN. READ

In the U.S., the number of surgical procedures is increasing, with more than 30 million performed annually according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No matter what kind of surgery you may be having, preparing for one can raise a lot of questions and concerns.

One of the most often asked questions is — to eat or not to eat? There was a long-held belief that patients should fast before surgery. Luckily, complete fasting before surgery may not always be a requirement. Today, scientific evidence and surgical guidelines recognize the benefits of perioperative nutrition. In fact, preparing for surgery is much like training for a marathon, taking a major physical and mental toll. That's why many believe that it's crucial to prepare by giving your body the strength and energy it needs to handle the stress of the operation and recovery. 

Infographic: Having Surgery? Good Nutrition Makes a Difference

Undergoing surgery can trigger inflammation and weight and muscle loss, which may lead to unwanted complications such as poor wound healing and infections. However, prepping your body with proper nutrition to support the immune system is associated with improved outcomes, such as reduced wound2 or infectious complications3,4 after surgery.

"It's time to rethink nutrition before and after surgery so that people have the best chance of a successful recovery and can get back to living life," says Dr. Paul Wischmeyer, professor of Anesthesiology & Surgery at Duke University. "Given the evidence and guidelines we have today, several organizations like the American Society for Enhanced Recovery now recommend specific nutrition prior to, the day of, and after a procedure to improve surgery outcomes."

Preparing for Surgery

So, what's the right way to go about it? Talk to your doctor and have a perioperative nutrition plan for before and after an operation. Here are a few proactive options to make sure you are set for the road to recovery. 

  • Carb-loading:

    This isn't just for runners. Research shows that carb-loading with physician-approved nutrition up to two hours before surgery is associated with reduced hunger, thirst, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and even length of hospital stay. 8

    Talk to your physician about whether nutritional drinks will work for you, such as Abbott's Ensure® Pre-Surgery Clear Carbohydrate Drink. It is specially designed to help improve outcomes.

  • Immunonutrition:

    Research shows that the use of immunonutrition – a blend of key nutrients – to support recovery before and after surgery is associated with reduced post-surgical infectious complications and a decrease in length of hospital stay.2,4

Immune-enhancing nutrients include arginine (an amino acid found in most protein-rich foods, including poultry, fish and dairy products) and omega-3 fatty acids (found in a variety of fish and fish oils). Ask your doctor if Abbott's Ensure Surgery Immunonutrition Shake is right for your recovery – it contains both of these ingredients to support immune health and recovery from surgery.

"In addition to focusing on your nutrition, another priority after surgery is to get moving, once you're given the green light from your doctor," says Abby Sauer, MPH, RD, a registered dietitian with Abbott. "It's also critical to get adequate nutrition, especially protein, before and after surgery to help protect your muscles and support your recovery."

Make sure to ask your physician about what's right for you and come up with a game plan for both before and after surgery, so you can get back on your feet. Recommended nutritional and recovery plans may differ depending on your operation. Learn more here about Abbott's Ensure Surgery Bundle.

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NCCHS; 2010. Available at Last accessed 22 Oct 2019.
2. Marik PE, et al. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr. 2010;34(3):378-386.
3. Drover JW, et al. J Am Coll Surg. 2011;212(3):385-399.e1.
4. Marimuthu K, et al. Ann Surg. 2012;255(6):1060-1068.
5. Hausel J, et al. Anaesth Analg. 2001;93:1344-1350.
6. Canbay Ö, et al. Int Urol Nephrol. 2014;46(7):415-421.
7. Singh BN, et al. Surg Endosc. 2015;29(11):3267-3272.
8. Ljungvist O, et al. Clin Nutr. 2001;20(Supplement 1):167-171.

Recovering from Surgery: Nutrition for Surgical Wound Healing

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We're all different. But we're all made up of 99.9% of the same DNA, meaning our bodies aren't so different after all. In fact, we need many of the same elements to function. This is especially true with nutrition for wound healing.

Poor nutrition is just one factor that can delay wound healing. Age, as well as health conditions, such as diabetes or cancer, malnutrition, and cardiovascular issues can further impact healing. Soft-tissue infections and medications can also contribute to delayed wound healing. 

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Wound Healing Support Through Nutrition

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Each person  is unique, so it makes sense that the wound healing rate would vary from one person to another. But for nutritionally at-risk individuals, especially those with underlying health issues such as cancer, diabetes and other chronic conditions, the wound healing process after injuries and surgeries may not proceed as expected.  

If this sounds like you, don't panic. “With the right nutrition, you can support your recovery and overall healing process”, says Jeff Nelson, associate research fellow at Abbott. We sat down with him to discuss some health conditions that can affect wound healing and why nutrition should be part of your care plan. 

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Nutrition to help your body prepare and recover



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