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Q&A: Preoperative Assessment Center helps prepare patients for surgery

Anesthesiologist Joyce Wahr, MD, shares why the new program is changing how things are done at University of Minnesota Medical Center.
Anesthesiologist Joyce Wahr, MD, is the medical director of the new University of Minnesota Health Preoperative Assessment Center, which shortens recovery times by helping prepare patients for surgery.

Anesthesiologists know that better-prepared patients often have a better recovery following surgery.

That is why University of Minnesota Health care providers recently developed a new clinical program called the Preoperative Assessment Center (PAC)—which helps patients prepare physically and emotionally before surgery. The program’s care team is changing how University of Minnesota Health doctors and staff approach surgery, said Anesthesiologist Joyce Wahr, MD, FAHA, the program’s medical director.

We spoke with Wahr to hear more about the new program.

What is the Preoperative Assessment Center, and why was it developed?

The Preoperative Assessment Center helps patients prepare for surgery. Typically, patients receive their pre-surgical health evaluation from their primary care physicians days or weeks before surgery. But primary care doctors don’t give anesthesia, don’t spend much time in the operating room and may not be aware of special pre-operative concerns anesthesiologists may have. So when patients come to the operating room the morning of the surgery, anesthesiologists often identify issues that care providers could have addressed before the day of the surgery.

At the center, an anesthesiologist and the care team will discuss every pre-surgical case to identify additional pre-surgical needs. For that reason, the patient is better prepared for surgery. Also, a visit to the center decreases the chances that we will need to cancel a patient’s procedure the day of surgery because of unforeseen health-related issues.

Learn more about Our Anesthesiology Services.

What steps do Preoperative Assessment Center care providers take with each patient?

Patients get a complete health history evaluation and a physical. Our care providers then decide if any sort of preparatory work needs to done. In addition to pre-surgical physical exams, we provide the following services:

  • Health status review: A complete review of the patient’s medical information to ensure the patient is ready for surgery.
  • Specialty care review: We review which specialists a patient sees to determine whether more tests or follow-up visits would be helpful. This helps patients avoid unnecessary tests and visits, and it can save patients money.
  • Medicine review: We review all current medications and doses and provide patients with instructions about which medications to continue or stop before surgery, and when.
  • Documentation review: We check to see if the paperwork required for surgery has been completed, including insurance preauthorization. If needed, we work with patients to complete this information.
  • Patient education: Our nurses educate patients on how to be ready for surgery. This may include tips on healthy eating, pre-surgical exercises and stress reduction.
  • Surgery preparation: We make sure patients have all the information they need to prepare for the day of their surgery. This includes guidelines on what patients can eat or drink before surgery, or common questions like: when to stop eating, where and when to arrive for surgery, where to park, and so on.
  • Smoking cessation: We also provide patients with resources to help them stop smoking if that is a requirement before they can have surgery.
  • Integrative therapy and pain management planning: Our team is available to discuss any integrative therapies patients might like to receive after surgery, such as aroma therapy and healing touch. Pain management nurses can help patients with chronic pain discuss a plan for managing pain after surgery.
  • Discharge planning: Our team will also help patients create a plan for after they leave the hospital. This may include options for transitional care or post-surgery physical therapy.