Your Doctor Will Never Tell You These Secrets Behind What Really Happens During Surgery

Just the idea of surgery is enough to stress out just about anybody. There’s the prep work, the anesthesia, and the potential complications of surgery itself. And of course, depending on the procedure, it can take weeks, or even months, to fully recover.

Doctors do their best to calm patients before they head to operating room by giving them all the facts. But there are some things that go on behind the scenes that you just don’t know about — until now.

1. Your primary care physician may not know the best surgeon for you

older at doctor

Some research you’ll have to do on your own. | AlexRaths/iStock/Getty Images

Before you head to a specialist, your primary care physician likely has someone in mind who seems perfectly qualified to perform your surgery. But you should double check their advice before moving forward. Howard Luks, M.D., tells Reader’s Digest some referrals are given because your primary care doctor and your surgeon are in the same multi-specialty group.

To find out who may be best for your operation, ask the hospital employees instead.

Next: Here’s when you should choose to have your surgery. 

2. Elective surgery is best in the beginning of the week

Plastic surgery Colombia

The beginning of the week is best. | Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images

If you have some flexibility in your schedule, it’s best to get your surgical procedure in the beginning of the week. Care2 explains research suggests those who have surgery later in the week or on the weekend have a much higher risk of dying than those who schedule it on Monday or Tuesday.

This is because your surgeon may not always be available on the weekend. That means if you’re having complications, it might be up to the weekend staff to take care of you — and they might not be fully prepared to take on whatever issue you’re having.

Next: Your surgeon may look confident, but think again.

3. Your surgeon gets seriously nervous before operating

Surgeons with clean hands entering operating room

Can you blame them? | Chris Ryan/Getty Images

A surgeon talked to the Daily Beast and explained that yes, though they know what they’re doing, they still get butterflies in their stomachs before surgery. “Yes, there are times in every surgeon’s career when we’ve confronted something unusual and thought to ourselves, ‘What the HELL do I do now?'” the surgeon said.

Fortunately, surgeons are trained to deal with all types of catastrophes. So even with their nerves, they can usually salvage a desperate situation.

Next: If you’ve been under the knife before, you better tell your doctor. 

4. It’s hard to find out how good your surgeon actually is

Visiting a doctor

Personal recommendations help, but aren’t guaranteed to deliver happy results. | Nensuria/iStock/Getty Images

Even with recommendations from friends and other doctors, not all surgeons are transparent with their records. Surgeon Paul Ruggieri talks to NPR about what his career has been like, and he give interesting insights. Ruggieri noted many of the records for surgeons aren’t public.

As far as what you can do for yourself, Ruggier recommends asking your surgeon “pointed, specific questions about their experience” and if they’ve ever witnessed complications with your type of procedure.

Next: It may seem like it’s all business in the OR, but is it really? 

5. The doctors talk about more than just your surgery when you’re under anesthesia

Male patient lying on a hospital bed and ready to be put under anesthesia

This is something most people wonder about before going under. | Antonio_Diaz/Getty Images

It seems like it’s all business in the OR, but surgeons do talk about other things aside from the surgery at hand. One surgeon commented on Quora, explaining doctors often discuss current events or whatever’s going on with their co-workers, like somebody’s vacation. Other times, they may make jokes about the case at hand, especially if you have a large tattoo or other noticeable features on your body.

Next: You may forget about this aspect of surgery — but yes, it does happen.

6. More people see you naked than you expect

Plastic surgeon

Now is not the time to be embarrassed. | iStock/Getty Images

In the back of your mind, you know your doctor is going to see you sans clothes during surgery — but you may not anticipate all the others who will also see you in your birthday suit. The Daily Beast explains surgeons, residents, nurses, assistants, techs, aides, and others who are involved in the surgical process commonly see patients totally naked.

Don’t think about it too much, though. They see so many bodies in a day, they certainly won’t remember yours.

Next: Your surgeon is really concerned about this happening to you.

7. Leaving an object inside of your body is more common than you think

surgical scissors and forceps during a mock surgery

The thought of this is terrifying. | GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/Getty Images

You’ve heard horror stories of doctors leaving behind forceps and scissors inside of a patient after surgery. Unfortunately, while this mistake is totally preventable, it happens a lot more than it should.

USA Today explains thousands of patients a year leave the hospital with surgical items stuck in their bodies. But it’s not necessarily the bigger items that are the problem. More often than not, it’s the cotton sponges or gauze used to soak up fluids that can really harm you.

Next: There’s a reason many surgeons have bladder issues, and this is why.

8. If they have to go to the bathroom during surgery, they just hold it

Team of surgeons

In this way, surgeons really are superstars. | Chris Ryan/Getty Images

Unless a bathroom break is planned in the day, your team of doctors and surgeons will go hours and hours on end without pause. And that means they often forego bathroom trips, even if they really have to go. As a specialist vascular surgeon tells Quora, “They go before and try not to drink heaps of coffee beforehand.”

Next: Surgeons aren’t as protected from your body fluids as they should be.

9. Your body fluids occasionally land on their bare skin

Female doctor's hands putting on blue sterilized surgical gloves

Those rubber gloves only cover so much skin. |

The OR isn’t for the faint of heart, as one surgical technician who wrote to Cracked reminds us. The tech says they wore scrubs, masks, shoe coverings, gloves, and sterile gowns while helping out, of course. But even so, there are so many body fluids everywhere that they can still sneak under their coverings.

As the tech explains, “I have lots of experience with various fluids on my face.”

Next: They have fun in the OR, too.

10. The surgeons sometimes play pranks on each other while operating

Surgeons in hospital corridor

This occurrence is hopefully a rare one. | Tom Merton/Getty Images

It’s all business during surgery — except for the few moments of lightheartedness that also inevitably occur. As the surgery tech explains to Cracked that surgeons and techs would regularly “fling” bits of tissue from the patient at each other.

“We always make sure our patient is safe, but we still like to have some fun,” they explain. This also sometimes means smearing blood across each other’s face screens at the end of the procedure.

Next: Your anesthesiologist does something seriously powerful to your brain.

11. Anesthesiologists often wipe your memory

Female patient waking up in the morning

The brain fog you experience can feel creepy. | Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images

When you’re under anesthesia, it’s natural to feel like no time has passed from the time you entered the OR to the time you woke up. And you can thank the drug Versed for that.

Verywell explains Versed is often used with Fentanyl to give you what is known as “conscious sedation.” When combined, these two drugs give you pain relief of course — but they also give you amnesia. Versed is only given to certain patients, however.

Next: You probably never considered this aspect of surgery.

12. Surgery can smell really bad

young girl closes her nose with her fingers

This feature is no real surprise. | VladimirFLoyd/Getty Images

Depending on what area of the body the surgeon is working on, the OR sometimes smells horrible. A contributor for Atlas Obscura explains she’s been in the operating room and never anticipated the various smells of surgery. She explains cutting into skin and bone can smell like burning hair. And we’re sure you can imagine the odor that occurs during procedures on the bowels or abdomen.

Next: There’s a reason you may feel like you’re pushed into surgery you might not really need.

13. Your surgeon is paid big bucks to go through with your procedure

Make sure you regularly talk to your doctor about your health.

Your surgeon may push surgery even if it’s unnecessary. | Ridofranz/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

Feel like your issue doesn’t need invasive treatment in order to be treated? You may be right. But you might not want to rely on your surgeon to tell you that.

Orthopedic surgeon James Rickert tells Reader’s Digest surgeons are paid “approximately 10 times more” to go through with the surgery than to fix your issue more conservatively.

Next: Your doctor likely knows just how risky your surgery’s going to be. 

14. There may be surgical risks your doctor knows about that aren’t on consent forms

Female doctor hold clipboard pad and fill medical history

Those medical forms only cover so much. | megaflopp/Getty Images

As Kevin B Jones, M.D., tells Reader’s Digest, “If you really want to understand the dangers, ask your surgeon.”

Yes, your consent forms may outline a few of the standard risks that come alone with any OR procedure. But if you want to know more about your specific surgery and what the possible complications are, it’s best to ask the surgeon directly. They’ve likely done your procedure many times and know the reality of what you can expect.

Next: Your procedure may seem pretty standard, but you should still know this harsh reality. 

15. Mistakes are more common during routine procedures than rare, complex surgeries

doctor and nurse talking to senior patient recovering

This fact is not commonly known. | DragonImages/Getty Images

It seems like difficult surgeries involving the brain or heart should involve the most mistakes, but that’s not always the case. Rosenbaum & Associates explains nerve damage is one of the most common (and preventable) surgical mistakes. All it takes is a tiny scalpel slip to damage a nerve. And when doctors feel totally comfortable with a routine procedure, they might not be as careful as they should be.

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