MedWatch Today: The program to enhance patients’ recovery after surgery

Med Watch Today

It’s no doubt, surgery can have a huge affect on someone’s life – mentally, emotionally, and physically. A new program at Community Medical Centers helps patients recover from their surgery in the best way possible. Dr. Amir Fathi introduces us to the ERAS program, otherwise known as “Enhanced Recovery After Surgery”.

As soon as Fresno resident Eileen Swift learned she had a huge mass on her pancreas in December of 2018, she said, “The cyst was so large,” Fathi suggested she have the non-cancerous cyst removed immediately. “He didn’t want it to remain,” continued Swift.

Fathi is the director of hepato-pancreato-biliary surgery at Community Regional Medical Center. He acknowledges surgery can take it’s toll on patients.

“Think about it, surgery is a really big insult in the body. We are really changing the physiology and anatomy of the body and we’re hoping that it’s gonna heal well and patients are going to go back to their normal life.”

But, Fathi said prior to 2017, he noticed surgery patients were struggling to get back to that normal life. He saw a high percentage of patients suffering from complications post-surgery. So, he began to ask, “What can we do to improve the outcomes after surgery? Some part was technique, some part was the medical care.”

In October 2017, Fathi and a number of other surgeons at Community Medical Centers helped to implement the ERAS program with eligible patients. The core concept of enhancing recovery after surgery is to optimize patients’ medical conditions before they go into surgery, so when they come out, they suffer less complications, pain, and bounce back to normalcy quicker.

Swift commented, “When the dietitian sat down and spoke with me about ERAS, a lot of it made sense because you actually start on this immune boosting five days before the surgery.”

She learned being part of the ERAS program ensured she would go into surgery nourished and hydrated.

“We have a special supplementation called immuno-nutrition that we give them, to the patients, prior to surgery to get them to better nutritional healthcare,” said Fathi.

Fathi explains ERAS also makes sure patients are up to date on all their medications. They check to see if the patient smokes, and if so, they try to help them quit. Smokers often have a difficult recovery post-surgery. Lastly, Fathi said it’s important to get a patients’ glycemic index under control, all in an effort to reduce surgical and post-operative stress.

“He said, we’re going to give you your old life back just like it was, except you’re going to have a fabulous scar,” laughed Swift.

Swift is one of more than 400 patients who have gone through the ERAS program since introducing it in 2017. Fathi is happy to report he’s noticed in his patients, “Better outcomes, less infection, shorter length of stay, less re-admissions, and then dramatic decrease in the narcotic pain medication usage.”

Swift had 60-percent of her pancreas removed, but thanks to the ERAS program, she said she was eating three days after the surgery. And now, two months out of that big operation, life is great as ever.

“I feel like I have all of my energy back, but I’m not doing a lot of crunches yet!” Swift ended.

The hope is to expand the ERAS program to all surgical patients in the Central Valley. If you’d like more information on the program, or to see if you qualify, talk to your doctor.

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