COVID-19 and colorectal surgery

COVID-19 has affected almost every aspect of life, and for many people, it meant that their surgery was delayed. On May 1, HonorHealth resumed elective surgeries after the governor lifted the temporary ban on these procedures. As we begin to do these procedures again, rest assured that HonorHealth is taking every measure to ensure your safety so you can get the care you need.

If your surgery was rescheduled, you may have questions about the procedure and how to manage pain. HonorHealth-affiliated colorectal surgeon, Neeraj Singh, MD, shares answers to the most common questions he is hearing from patients.

Q. Is it better to bed rest or to stay active while waiting for my surgery?

A: For those waiting to have colorectal surgery, there are no specific restrictions or limitations on activities that can hurt your intestine or colon. We recommend doing routine exercises as advised by your primary care physician. In general, we advise that you do about 30-45 minutes of aerobic activity at least 3-4 times a week.

Q. Do you recommend over-the-counter medication to help relieve pain, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea?

A: If you feel there is an abnormal change in your symptoms or you feel weak, dehydrated and/or are experiencing abdominal pain, call your surgeon immediately.

If you are having intermittent mild constipation or diarrhea but no drastic changes to your normal bowel movements, then we do not recommend taking any medications on your own. Instead, we recommend eating a healthy diet, adding more fiber and staying hydrated. The change in your bowel habits could be related to your colorectal disease, so it is best to call your doctor before taking any medicine or if you have other questions or concerns.

Q. What about pro- and pre-biotics, digestive enzymes, essential oils/herbs, stool softeners or vitamins?

A: Probiotics are used to replenish your gut flora and can be taken if recommended by your doctor. If you maintain a healthy, nutritious diet, we would not recommend essential oils or vitamins, unless you are vitamin deficient and it has been advised by your doctor. Finally, stool softeners can be used occasionally if you have taken them in the past. If you feel like your routine has significantly changed and you are having difficulty moving your bowels, then you should contact your doctor immediately.

Q. What are the best ways to maintain a healthy gut to ease symptoms before rescheduled surgery?

A: In general, gut health is important since most of your daily nutrients are digested and absorbed in different parts of the gut. Any abnormality can cause a deficiency of essential or non-essential nutrients and lead to different diseases. Similarly eating red meat, consuming a diet low in fiber and drinking concentrated carbohydrate drinks have all been associated with an increased risk of polyp and cancer formation in different parts of your gut. We recommend adding more proteins in the form of seafood, vegetables, poultry or dairy to limit red meat consumption. In addition, avoid drinking alcohol and smoking before surgery to the reduce risk of any post-surgical complications.

Q. What should patients do to ensure they will be ready for surgery?

A: As suggested above, avoid red meats, concentrated carbohydrate drinks, alcohol and smoking while increasing fiber intake and other forms of protein. In addition to diet and lifestyle measures, we also recommend that you receive medical clearance from your primary care physicians and/or specialists. This includes lab work and scan results, which should be done as soon as possible. Please contact your surgeon for any specific instructions related to your surgical procedure.

Q. What makes you confident that the surgeon and patient can safely go into surgery at HonorHealth?

A: HonorHealth is taking every measure for each patient’s and surgeon’s health and safety. You can learn more about the safety precautions and protocols here. Providers and hospitals are working closely together to provide exceptional care for all patients. HonorHealth is following the mandates of the Arizona governor’s orders and meeting all requirements to safely perform elective surgeries at this time.

Q. What other tips or advice do you have for patients who are experiencing symptoms while waiting for their rescheduled colorectal surgery?

A: My last advice would be to stay in touch with your surgeon on a weekly basis or if you experience any changes in your health status, including abnormal constipation, diarrhea, abdominal or rectal pain or any signs of bleeding. If your surgeon feels that things are changing, they may be able to schedule your surgery earlier on a priority basis. To prevent the spread of coronavirus, everyone should follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on a daily basis, including frequent handwashing, social distancing and use of masks.

For the most current information

Our top priority is the health and safety of our patients, employees and visitors. HonorHealth is working closely with public health officials to stay up-to-date with the most current information and guidelines related to the Coronavirus. Visit our dedicated Coronavirus page for the latest information.

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