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 increased mortality.

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 malnourished patients.

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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