Feeling nervous about surgery is normal and expected. But post-operative depression, a common and serious condition, is hardly acknowledged. How come? In the US alone, 60,000 people undergo general anesthesia for surgery every day. Recently my dad was one of them. The surgery went well and post-op healing from the incision and medical procedure itself went swimmingly. But something was wrong. What the doctors failed to tell him, and generally fail to disclose, is that general anesthesia is an assault on the brain. Far better than whiskey, modern anesthesia’s ability to knock us out is not without risk of side effects.
One common, though all-too-little discussed risk? Post-operative depression
Post-operative depression. Up to 65% of people undergoing certain types of surgeries experience depression. It can be short-lived or can linger. Either way, it can have huge health consequences. Symptoms of post-operative depression vary from individual to individual, but common symptoms include changes in appetite and energy levels, shifts in mood such as apathy or irritability, fatigue, and feelings of hopelessness and despair. Post-operative depression is often overlooked or minimized by surgeons and hospital staff, overshadowed by the post-op focus on the surgery’s outcome – leaving patients like my dad unprepared.
Better prepared, we could have managed those post-op days without the additional emotional worries and medical procedures, all of which detract from healing. Consider this a heads up for the next time you or a loved one will undergo general anesthesia.