Chances are, you’ll probably be sliced open at some point in your life. No, we’re not talking about Freddy Krueger or some horrible slasher movie scenario (those chances are ever so slightly slimmer); we’re talking about surgery. Modern medicine has come a long way in the last century and surgeries are fairly common and necessary, though still always risky. In fact, one study estimated that the average number of surgeries in a single lifetime come out to around 9.2. Whether you need a surgery to remove a malignant cancerous tissue in hopes of survival or you simply need your wisdom teeth removed, it’s likely you’ll have a couple of surgical consultations in your lifetime.
While it is much more common to get surgeries these days, that doesn’t mean it isn’t risky, dangerous, and flat out terrifying to go under the knife; there’s never a guarantee that nothing will go wrong. Some of us would rather go head to head with Freddy Krueger than put our faith in the surgeons holding scalpels; at least then, we’d have some control over our fate. Surgery can be a scarier prospect than most horror movies. Why? Is it because of the sight of blood? The vulnerability of your vital organs? The bone breaking, muscle tearing gore that we’re forced to sleep through? There’s more to fear than you know about lying unconscious in that operating room. So take a deep breath and count backwards from ten: here are fifteen terrifying things you need to know about the operating table.
15. Your Surgeon is Likely An A-Hole
We don’t mean to hate on surgeons. These people have gone through at least ten years of education before they were able to find steady employment, so most are pretty qualified. Surgery is also a weirdly competitive field of medicine; that’s right, all the medical dramas portrayed it accurately. These people are indeed hedging bets for “best surgeon” by attempting to give you the best treatment possible. So they’ll shake your hands (they shake a lot of hands, actually, considering their hands should be sterile as much as possible) and nod a lot when you tell them about your problems, but their bedside manner is typically abysmal. Though they’re, on average, taller and better looking than the typical director, they’re also most likely to interrupt you (studies indicate they interrupt patients at least once every fourteen seconds). They’re also most likely to ignore your opinions about treatment until they become burdened with a heavy patient load; then they seem to stop caring.
14. Your Surgery Might Be Sinful
At least in the eyes of those who prescribe to the unenlightened beliefs of the Middle Ages. Back then, any procedures done to alter an appearance were considered sinful because you were changing God’s image and creation. It’s also important to note that this was during the time that witches were put on trial and burned alive to see if they had magical powers to stop the flames (and if they didn’t, oh well- they must not have been witches after all. Darn). Plastic surgery, or really any surgery done to change your appearance (including repairing a broken leg so that one could walk without a limp, or fixing a broken nose), was considered as sinful as black magic. Eventually, of course, these views changed when people realized they could survive past the age of thirty if they just removed that festering skin on their leg or fixed a wound incurred in childbirth.
13. Your Surgery Has a Seedy Past
Modern medicine has made a lot of surgeries very routine, safe, and predictable, but it wasn’t always that way. Surgeons have existed a long time. The first plastic surgeries (purely for cosmetic purposes) were completed back in 600 B.C. by Sushruta Samhita; if people would willingly go under the knife for beauty back then, how long do you think it’s been used for necessary, life-saving purposes? And what other purposes was it used for?
For example, plastic surgery wasn’t actually originally used for cosmetic purposes; it was initially performed on the deceased. Because ancient Egyptians believed a person should look the same in death as they did in life, the affluent and recently deceased would undergo several plastic surgeries to enhance their best features: bones were broken, ribs were removed, and organs were cushioned with bandages to make them look more attractive for the Gods. Rethinking that nose job yet?
12. Your Surgery Could Change You
Transplants and intricate surgeries can go completely as planned and you could leave the hospital feeling better than ever. Or something a bit more odd can happen, and you could wake up feeling like a completely different person. Biologically, we should be able to swap out most of our body parts and organs and still be the same person; we might be a bit like Frankenstein’s monster, but we’d essentially still be ourselves barring invasive brain surgeries that tamper with our memories, distinctive personalities, and cognitive functions.
Yet that’s not always how it works. There are cases where liver transplants have changed blood types; organ transplants not related to the brain have inspired changes in food and music preferences; even dialect/accent changes have occurred after dental surgeries! You never know just how well you’re going to recover after surgery. It could be a whole new you, unrecognizable as your former self.
11. You’re Plastic Surgery Will Get You Killed
Okay, not as a rule. It’s very probable that you’re going to go in for your lipo or to get your stomach stapled or for pectoral implants and you’re going to come out looking amazing (though not at all like yourself- but that’s kinda the point, right?). But it’s also possible that you’ll go under for your surgery and never wake up again.
Death rates for liposuction surgeries are shockingly higher than they are for car accidents in the United States. Yeah, that’s right. People die everyday in car accidents; and more people die from liposuction complications. Annually, about sixteen in one hundred car accident victims die; approximately twenty in one hundred liposuction surgery patients die. Thinking twice before voluntarily going under the knife? You should be. Find a way to be happy with the body you have; it’s a whole lot safer than hoping no one messes up during your surgery.
10. Your Surgery Was Once Performed By Barbers
Yeah. The people that cut your hair were once also responsible for pulling your teeth, giving enemas, and amputating limbs. Talk about a Jack of All Trades…
This was long ago, of course: back in the sixteenth century (which wasn’t all that long ago, if you really think about it). Back then, your barber was your go-to guy. He would trim your beard, massage your face, trim your hair, and, oh yeah, CUT OFF YOUR ARM IF YOU GOT SHOT. They were called “barber surgeons,” and their title was an apt name for their occupation. They did it all, from bathing their customers (yeah, full on baths) to bloodletting, which was the practice of taking blood from a patient so their immune system worked harder to produce new, healthy cells. Imagine coming in for a haircut right after a soldier came in to get a gunshot examined. Don’t you feel lucky for the aloof but qualified surgeon you have today?
9. You Can’t Feel Your Brain Surgery
There are plenty of horror and thriller movies depicting screaming victims as surgeons operate on their brains, doing God knows what to the gelatin mass housed inside their craniums. Truth is, there would be no screaming and no pain if someone were to be poking around your brain, no matter what tools they were using and what they were doing. Sure, you might start malfunctioning as a human being or start acting a good bit funny, but the important part is that you wouldn’t feel it. Even if you were wide awake and entirely lucid.
You would, however, feel everything leading up to the surgery. The incisions into your scalp, the peeling back of your skin, the cutting into the cranium/skull… you would certainly feel all of that and they would be the most painful experiences of your life. But if you can get through all that, you won’t feel a smidgen of whatever they do to your brain.
8. You Could Get More Sick
Maybe you just got to the hospital because you were in a car accident. Maybe you broke your leg or just wanted to check for internal bleeding; all you need is time to reset and ensure your health before you can go home again. Tough break, but it happens all the time. Now you’re stuck in a hospital bed, probably sharing a room with another patient (or maybe even a few others) and you’re just trying to get better. Suddenly, you’re starting to feel worse. You know why? Because you’re stuck in a hospital! Hospitals are breeding grounds for super viruses that attack the weak immune system of trapped patients. You could catch a mild cold that turns into strep, which in turn infects your brain stem! Suddenly the mild surgery you may have needed turns into a major surgery that could determine if you live or die- and it’s all because you came to the hospital in the first place.
7. You Won’t Fully Comprehend What They’re Going To Do To You
Imagine you’re going to need surgery. Let’s say that you need an appendectomy. Your surgeon will… likely be a dick, as we’ve already discussed. But also, he’ll probably do his due diligence and explain in detail to you what he will do while you’re under anesthesia. “One incision will be made in the lower right quadrant of your abdomen. The appendix will be removed and all ancillary arteries will be capped. The cavity that once housed your appendix will be cleaned, and the incision will be closed. You’ll need plenty of rest and recovery time.”
Okay, that’s all well and good but… what? What they’re basically saying is they’re going to cut you open, take out the organ, clean up where it was with some sterile chemicals, and sew you back up. Ta-da! Unfortunately, this is one of the most simple surgeries to describe; once things get complicated, you’re really going to be in a tough spot.
6. You Could Get Lit
Not the fun, “let’s get drunk and party” kind of lit. Lit on fire. Yeah. You could be lit on fire during surgery. How could this possibly happen? Well, to explain it simply:
Our bodies are filled with chemicals. Not necessarily bad chemicals or chemicals put there from too much McDonald’s, but naturally occurring chemicals your body needs to complete daily autonomic functions. It’s completely normal and completely safe, until a doctor gets in there and starts putting in more chemicals that were never intended to mix. Some of these chemicals they use to clean their tools and even our organs are highly combustible, like alcohol-solutions. Imagine a doctor starts cleaning your insides after surgery with one of these chemicals and something dire happens that requires the use of a defibrillator, sending an electric pulse through your body. That chemical’s going to light up. A 2003 study showed that one hundred surgical patients are lit up every year, and one to two percent die from the incident.
5. You Could Go Crazy
There’s something about hospitals that makes everyone feel a bit uncomfortable. Some people actually go insane in hospitals, completely unprovoked and unexpectedly. It’s called “hospital-acquired delirium,” and it is, strangely enough, a very real condition that affects a lot more people than you’d think. Theories are that patients experiencing hospital-acquired delirium have always had symptoms of delirium and that the highly stressful and chaotic environments of emergency rooms and intensive care units simply call these symptoms to the surface. It’s most common in elderly patients, affecting over a third of geriatric patients in intensive care or preparing for surgery, but can be found throughout all age groups. The condition could last for a few hours or could take hold over you for weeks, and symptoms may include volatility, hostile behavior, memory loss, poor orientation, and incoherence. It’s thought to be caused by a combination of factors, including drug use, sedation, age, sex, dehydration, isolation, and poor nutrition.
4. You Could Wake Up to a Bigger Problem
Let’s say you went to the hospital for an appendectomy, which is the surgical procedure required to remove the appendix. Usually it’s only done if the appendix is swollen or enlarged, but sometimes patients get appendectomies as a preventative measure to rid themselves of fears of appendicitis. It’s a very routine procedure that requires you to go under anesthesia; you’re supposed to wake up to a tiny scar on your abdomen, no appendix, and no surprises.
However, that’s not always how it goes. Imagine waking up to an embarrassed surgeon that left something very important: removing all the tools from your abdomen before sewing up the incision site. Sounds ludicrous, right? Or like a bad joke from Scrubs? But it actually happens, and way more than it ought to: about 110 times a year, patients have medical equipment left in their bodies! If gone unnoticed or unchecked, it can cause serious injury or death!
3. You Could Wake Up In The Middle of Your Surgery
Thought that was just a gimmick in horror movies, or something that only happened in overly dramatic soap operas? Guess again. To our horror, it is actually possible that your body will react strangely to anesthesia and you could undergo the phenomenon of “anesthesia awareness,” wherein your body doesn’t go under anesthesia fully (usually due to a mistake on the part of the anesthesiologist) and you wake up feeling everything that is happening to you. Studies show it occurs .02-2% of the time, which is horrifyingly significant given the amount of annual surgeries. Occasionally, patients who suffer from this condition get lucky and wake up in the middle of surgery but are affected enough by the anesthesia to still be numb to the pain. However, even these patients profess they could feel tools and hands operating on them, like a ghost rummaging through their innards. Most of the time, though, waking up in the middle of your surgery will mean blinding, excruciating, traumatizing pain.
2. Your Life Hangs In The Balance
We’re all human. In all honesty, you probably landed yourself in an operating room due to a human error like drinking too much, eating too much fatty foods, or thinking you could parkour off the roof of your neighbor’s house. Making mistakes is all a part of the human experience and no one should fault you for making an occasional call that happens to be the wrong one.
Unfortunately for us, our surgeons are also human (usually, the surgical field is beginning to evolve into artificial intelligence). Surgeons make mistakes too, sometimes when it matters most. In fact, the chances of dying due to a medical error is higher than the probability of dying in a plane crash. One in ten surgical patients will die from a flub in someone’s day at the office, whether it was misreading how much anesthesia to give a patient or to press on through surgery though a weak heart may not be able to handle it.
1. You Can Die From Your Surgery Weeks After It Takes Place
Yes, there is clearly a ton to fear from the operating room. So many things can go wrong in preparation for and during surgery, as you’ve clearly learned through reading this article. You may think that, if you wake up after the day of your surgery and you feel generally alright, you’ll be fine. However, you all may be wrong.
It’s frequent, nay, common that implications of surgery can manifest themselves weeks or even months after the actual date of incision. You may not feel a thing for weeks and think your recovery is near completion when you realize that your stitches are infected and have caused a problem that will lead to you needing a repeat of the exact same surgery, or something much worse. Repercussions may arise entirely unexpected after surgeries, so it’s very important to attend all check ups and visits related to the surgery as requested.
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