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Downward Health Spiral Syndrome (Post Surgery)


Millions of unnecessary surgical procedures are performed in the United States every year, adding not only extra medical expenses but also extra risks to people’s lives. At times, and more often than you might think, surgeries can actually cause more problems than they’re capable of solving.

Before you go under the knife, know the long-term risks to your health.

In fact, your surgeon will likely never tell you this, but many surgeries result in a post-surgery condition that we call Downward Health Spiral Syndrome.

When Your Health Spirals Downward After Surgery

A classic example of Downward Health Spiral Syndrome can occur following gallbladder surgery. According to Dr. Bruce West in Health Alert Volume 21, Issue 7, older adults who have their gallbladders removed often begin to spiral downward health-wise. He says:

“… After 30 years, I have seen the same thing happen so many hundreds of times, it can be no coincidence … An individual has his or her gallbladder removed, and before you know it their memory goes, they get more and more sick, they are headed for a nursing home, and often to their grave.”

Likewise, post-operative delirium is the most common side effect reported after surgery for hip fractures. Experts suggest that anywhere from 5 percent to 61 percent of hip fracture surgical patients suffer from delirium after surgery, making it less likely that the patient will return to their previous level of function. Delirium after surgery also increases the likelihood of being placed in a nursing home and ultimately of dying.

There are other health risks, too, inherent to any surgical procedures. Among them:

  • Blood clots: Potentially fatal blood clots are surprisingly common after surgery. A recent study found that the risk of blood clots deep in the veins and lungs rises to one in 140 after surgery for women, compared to one in 6,200 for women that did not have surgery.

The risk is even greater for certain surgeries, with a one in 45 risk for knee replacement surgery and a one in 85 risk after cancer surgery. Further, the heightened risk remains for at least 12 weeks following surgery.

  • Infections and Pneumonia: For 48,000 Americans every year, hospital-acquired infections are deadly. While analyzing the discharge records of 69 million U.S. patients, researchers determined that both sepsis and pneumonia are often acquired after a person checks in to the hospital. They specifically identified infections that should have been preventable, such as a bloodstream infection that occurs because medical equipment is not properly sterilized during surgery.

In the case of sepsis that developed after surgery, 20 percent of those affected died. For pneumonia, which sometimes occurs due to dirty ventilator tubes, 11 percent died.

In fact, anytime you enter a hospital for a surgical procedure, you run the risk of serious related complications. The seventh annual HealthGrades Patient Safety in American Hospitals study, released in March 2010, painted a dire picture of patient safety in U.S. hospitals, especially those that ranked outside of the top 5 percent.

The study, which analyzed nearly 40 million hospitalization records found that nearly 1 million patient-safety incidents occurred among Medicare patients from 2006-2008, many of them among surgical patients.

Among the medical mishaps measured in the study were:

  • Complications of anesthesia

  • Bed sores

  • Death among surgical inpatients with serious treatable complications

  • Selected infections due to medical care

  • Post-operative hip fracture

  • Post-operative hemorrhage or hematoma

  • Post-operative physiologic and metabolic derangements

  • Post-operative respiratory failure

  • Post-operative pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis

  • Post-operative sepsis

  • Accidental puncture or laceration

  • Transfusion reaction

Anytime you enter a hospital you also raise your risk of serious MRSA and C. diff infections, which is why the decision to have any surgery should be taken seriously … it could end up being a life-and-death decision.

What to Do BEFORE You Have Surgery

Did you ask your doctor if there are alternatives to surgery for your health condition? Did you get a second opinion? Be sure you’re educated and well informed before you decide that surgery is your best solution.

First and foremost, be certain that the surgery is actually necessary. Millions of Americans have surgery every year (estimates range anywhere from 23 million to 60 million procedures per year!) and must put their health into the hands of their surgeon. Fortunately, most surgeries are elective, or at least not immediate, which means you have time to do your homework and find less invasive alternatives, or if you do opt for surgery to choose a surgeon that you feel comfortable with.

For starters, here are 21 questions you need to have answered before you or a loved one has surgery. You will want to make sure you ask:

  • Are there alternatives to the surgical procedure?

  • What are the benefits of the surgery?

  • What are the risks of the surgery?

  • If I opt NOT to have the procedure, what are the risks/benefits?

  • What about a second opinion? (Getting a second opinion is fairly common before an elective surgical procedure is performed.)

It is also important that you are in the best condition possible before having any surgery. You will want to be sure you strengthen your body and your immune system with a fresh, whole food based diet, including plenty of raw foods, and regular exercise.

“Pre-habilitation,” or “pre-hab,” is actually a relatively new concept that refers to an exercise therapy program started prior to surgery, usually at least six weeks before or more. Among patients who took part in a pre-hab program that included strength training, aerobic and flexibility exercises for six weeks prior to knee or hip-replacement surgery, the odds of needing inpatient rehabilitation went down by 73 percent.

“Pre-hab makes a huge difference in our patients’ outcomes,” orthopedic surgeon Hal Crane, MD, founding medical director of the Rose Institute for Joint Replacement at the Rose Medical Center in Denver, told Arthritis Today magazine. “They get vertical sooner and recover faster.”

Ideally, invest in a few different exercise programs that you can do right from your own home. This needn’t be expensive; on the contrary, you can get Jacques Gauthier’s Stretching Toward a Healthier Life and Shea Vaughn’s awesome SheaNetics program (a blend of Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Martial Arts, Gyro-Kinesis, Dance and MORE) for under $90 with free shipping.

Both of these exercise programs will help strengthen and tone your core muscles while promoting flexibility, better circulation, improved endurance and better physical health. You can use them prior to surgery and then again post-op as part of your rehabilitation program (all right from the comfort of your own home).

After surgery, you will also want to make sure that your home is a safe healthy haven where you can fully recover. You will want to be especially certain that the air in your home is free from toxins and mold spores, which can be a burden to your recovering body. After surgery, you want your immune system to work on helping you heal and recover, not have to battle contaminants introduced from your external indoor air.

For instance, when mold grows on your walls, carpets or other materials, portions of it are transferred to the indoor air you breathe. According to the EPA, this can lead to symptoms that include immunologic effects that you want to avoid while recovering from surgery.

This is why the PIONAIR Smart Pointe Air Treatment System, which highly recommends, can be an invaluable post-op tool to oxidize organic odors, germs, and fungi. The PIONAIR technology creates ultraviolet light rays, safe levels of ozone, and passive negative ions as part of your air treatment.

Natural air purification is performed by the UV light rays of the sun and ozone, which is produced by thunderstorms. This is why air smells so fresh after a thunderstorm. Ion generation occurs in nature from lightning and ultraviolet radiation.

The PIONAIR technology uses these natural methods by creating ultraviolet light rays, safe levels of ozone, and passive negative ions as part of your air treatment process. The other part of the process is a catalyst made from Ti02 (titanium dioxide), that when activated, generates hydroxyl radicals and super oxide ions. This system is not an air filter. It is an air purifier duplicating Nature's own methods of air cleaning and revitalization.

The SMART POINTE uses the same technology as the original PIONAIR system, with the added benefit of actively generated negative ions. These actively generated negative ions clear the air of particulate FASTER than the original PIONAIR system. Therefore, the PIONAIR SMART POINTE is effective against particulate such as pollen, dust, pet dander, and smoke, AS WELL AS mold, mildew, organic odors, and chemical vapors (such as formaldehyde).

Finally, you will want to be sure that you relax, find ways to relieve stress and get plenty of high-quality sleep, both before and after surgery, as it’s during this time that your body is rebuilt and repaired. By keeping your mind in a calm, positive place, you’ll help your body to heal on a physical level.

Always Ask: Is Surgery Really My Best Option?

Remember … 7.5 million unnecessary medical and surgical procedures are performed annually, and 8.9 million people are hospitalized unnecessarily, according to a 2003 review of medical peer-reviewed journals and government health statistics by Gary Null PhD, Carolyn Dean MD ND and colleagues.

Also, nearly 784,000 iatrogenic (unintentionally caused by a doctor or medical treatment) deaths occur each year. So keep these statistics in mind when you’re considering your next surgical procedure. Often, there are safer and more effective alternatives (such as a liver flush, exercise and healthy diet in lieu of gallbladder removal surgery) that will help treat your medical condition at the source, eliminating the cause so there’s no need for a potentially dangerous surgical “cure.”

SixWise Ways!
SixWise Says ...

Never agree to plastic surgery if the doctor's office is full of portraits by Picasso.

Something you never want to hear during surgery: "Who wants to try something new?"

Once I got the bill for my surgery, I realized why those doctors were wearing masks.

“The remedy is worse than the disease.”

--Francis Bacon

Recommended Reading

Items Left Inside People After Surgery: Just How Common is This Terrifying Ordeal?

Fires During Surgery Surprisingly Common: How to Avoid Getting Burned


BMJ 2009;339:b4583 December 3, 2009

J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2006;88:2060-2068.

Arthritis Today Magazine

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