Safety in the Operating Room

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Safety in the operating room is extremely important when undergoing breast surgery. The events to make sure that you and the operating room team remain safe first begin when you see your surgeon in the clinic (usually days or weeks before your scheduled surgery). Your surgeon should review all of the risks and benefits of your operation and explain the operation in terms that you understand. Once you agree that you understand the operation and its risks, you will be asked to sign a document confirming you agree to proceed with surgery which. This document is called the “consent.” This sheet will also document which side (right or left) or if you will have bilateral (both sides) surgery of your breast(s).

Depending on things like your age, medical problems, or previous surgeries, your surgeon may ask you to see your primary care provider (PCP), a cardiologist, or the anesthesiologist to confirm that it is safe for you to undergo a surgery. This sometimes means having blood work done, getting a chest x-ray, or having an electrocardiogram (EKG) done. Some of your medications (like blood thinners) may have to be stopped several days before surgery.

On the day of your surgery, you will check-in and then be taken to the pre-operative area where you will meet several staff members including the nursing staff, the anesthesiology team, and your surgeon and their team. Your consent and the correct side of surgery will be reviewed. You should always feel free to ask any questions about your surgery during this time.

Once you are in operating room, the entire team follows a strict “checklist” (much like an airline pilot does prior to take-off) to make sure that your safety is the top priority. You may be asked again to confirm your name, date of birth, and what operation you are undergoing. Once you are on the operating table, the team will place safety straps on you because the table is narrow. After you are under anesthesia, but before your surgeon makes an incision, the entire team does a “time out.” This is a time when everyone must stop what they are doing to formally introduce themselves and review the checklist. Your surgeon will tell the team to “speak up” if they have any concerns during the operation.

During the operation, the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will carefully monitor your heart rate, how much oxygen is in your blood, and ensure you are not aware of the operation and are comfortable. The surgical team makes sure that the entire procedure is done in sterile-fashion to minimize any chance of infection. The entire time you are in the operating room, the anesthesia team, surgical team, and nursing staff are in constant communication to ensure you and the rest of the team are safe.