Eating right prior to surgery is also
part of the preparation process.
Good nutrition is essential
to help prepare the body
for surgery. The nutritional
status of a patient can have
a significant impact on the
outcome in any type of surgery.
“Optimising one’s nutritional
status before a surgery can potentially
improve wound healing, reduce surgical
complications and shorten hospital stays.
Therefore, this process should start
as early as possible once a surgical
procedure has been planned,” said
Ms Gladys Lim, Senior Dietitian,
Changi General Hospital (CGH).
“Screening for malnutrition risk
is the first and crucial step in
identifying patients who could
benefit from nutritional therapy.”
Malnutrition is characterised
as under-nutrition due to an
insufficient, excessive or imbalanced
intake of nutrients. Its signs include
lack of appetite, fatigue, difficulty staying
focused, losing weight unintentionally or
having a Body Mass Index (BMI) below
18.5. Malnutrition can be exacerbated by
medical conditions that impair nutrient
absorption, increase nutrient loss or increase
nutrient requirements. It has been linked to
immunosuppression, higher risk of surgical
complications, impaired wound healing and
For malnourished patients and those
at risk of malnourishment, pre-surgery
nutrition optimisation entails a referral
to a dietitian, who provides nutritional recommendations after conducting a
detailed assessment of the patient’s dietary
intake and nutritional status. Additionally,
blood tests for nutritional markers may be
performed to screen for vitamin and mineral
deficiencies before the surgery.
Prioritise your protein intake
Protein strengthens the body’s immune
functions as well as builds, repairs and
maintains muscles, which are vital to heal
wounds. Optimising protein intake before
surgery helps build reserves, counter surgical
stress and minimise infections, especially for
When a patient undergoes surgery, the
process induces stress on the body that
results in the breakdown of muscle, affecting
the body’s ability to heal and recover.
After surgery, protein needs remain high
for all patients, though the exact amount to
be consumed daily is highly individualised
and dependent on their weight trend,
nutritional status, severity of medical
condition and type of surgery.
Despite the local belief that seafood and
chicken can worsen wound healing, there is
hardly such evidence. “On the contrary, both
seafood and chicken are excellent sources of
protein, and are therefore beneficial, especially
during the recovery phase, to ensure there is
adequate protein intake to speed up recovery,”
said Ms Lim. She added that should the patient
choose to avoid seafood and chicken, it is
essential that he or she includes other proteins
such as fish, lean pork, red meat, eggs, tofu and
beans in the diet.
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