Digestive Health

Early recovery after surgery: New program within our surgical home helps you get back to yours

“How long will I be off my feet or out of work after surgery?”

This concern unfortunately keeps many from getting the health care they need to live long and well. A national program available to patients at the Digestive Health Center at Augusta University (DHC) — the most progressive in the area — eliminates that concern with a concept called a “surgical home.” Literally speaking, this is a place in which patients receive surgery, but to the DHC and its partners in anesthesiology, this means much more.

Our surgical home

The surgical home for colorectal surgery includes surgery and anesthesiology. Dr. Alan Herline, vice-chair of the Department of Surgery, associate director of the Digestive Health Center and section chief of Minimally Invasive Digestive Diseases Surgery, represents surgery, and Dr. Robin Schwartz, perioperative surgical home director, represents anesthesiology. Physical and occupational therapy representatives are also included in the surgical home. These groups work together to develop and implement procedures to ensure patients recover as quickly as
possible.

“We know that patients recover better in their home environment,” Herline said. “This allows our patients to get back to doing the things they want to do in a timely manner with fewer complications and infections.”

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Dr. Alan Herline, vice-chair of the Department of Surgery, associate director of the Digestive Health Center and section chief of Minimally Invasive Digestive Diseases Surgery

How it works

If a patient has a colon mass, his or her physician may contact the DHC or colorectal surgeon directly, regarding screening or follow-up. The DHC then coordinates appointments with the colorectal surgeon and anesthesiology team on the same day for the patient’s convenience and to allow the DHC to plan how the surgical home will best take care of the patient. The patient then sees the colorectal surgeon, learns about the concept of a surgical home and schedules the operation.

During the morning of surgery, the patient visits with the colorectal surgeon and anesthesiology team and begins the early recovery process. The operation is performed in a minimally invasive manner, which includes laparoscopic or robotic techniques, using the smallest incisions possible. After the operation, the patient is on goal-directed discharge, which means that being discharged isn’t based on time, but on meeting certain recovery milestones. The anesthesiology team remains with the patient until he or she recovers and is turned over to the primary care physician.

Better health outcomes

“By using these steps, we’ve experienced a significant decrease in infections and pneumonia,” Herline said, “which are two of the more common complications after colon and rectal surgeries.”

Using these steps helps physicians identify what’s unique about each patient and, therefore, effectively treat him or her, as well as provide optimal care so the patient can recover as quickly as possible.

Did you know?

About half of all colon cancer deaths in the United States could be prevented if everyone age 50 and older get screened. To make an appointment and learn about colorectal screening or our digestive health services and providers, call us at 706-446-4887 or visit augustahealth.org/digestivehealth.

About the author

Augusta University Health

Augusta University Health

Based in Augusta, Georgia, Augusta University Health is a world-class health care network, offering the most comprehensive primary, specialty and subspecialty care in the region. Augusta University Health provides skilled, compassionate care to its patients, conducts leading-edge clinical research and fosters the medical education and training of tomorrow’s health care practitioners. Augusta University Health is a not-for-profit corporation that manages the clinical operations associated with Augusta University.

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