Minor surgical procedures that take a short time to perform and usually require only local anaesthesia
Minor surgical procedures are those that can be done quickly, usually with only a local anaesthetic (see Having a local anaesthetic). Examples of these procedures include removal of moles, drainage of cysts or abscesses, and vasectomy. Most minor surgical procedures involve instruments. However, in some situations no instruments are needed, such as in the manipulation of a simple fracture.
Minor surgery is usually carried out in hospital as a day case or on an outpatient basis, or your doctor may carry out the procedure in his or her surgery.
What does it involve?
A minor operation that involves little blood loss requires only minimal preparation when performed on a healthy individual. The doctor will usually discuss the procedure with you, carry out a brief physical examination, and ask you to sign a consent form.
You may be given a local anaesthetic, usually by injection. Anaesthetic creams and sprays can also be used, but these are much less effective than injected anaesthetics. However, they may sometimes be used to numb the skin before giving a local anaesthetic injection.
The doctor then scrubs up and puts on a sterile gown and gloves; he or she may or may not wear a mask. An antiseptic liquid is used to clean the area that will be operated on (which will previously have been shaved, if necessary), and sterile drapes will be put around the area to prevent bacteria on the surrounding skin from entering the wound.
Once the skin around the affected area is clean and anaesthetized, the doctor carries out the procedure. Some procedures involve cutting through the skin and leave a wound, which is closed after surgery using stitches (sutures), tape, staples, clips, or glue (see Rejoining tissue). Other procedures, such as draining abscesses, leave an open wound, which is covered with a dressing.
What happens after surgery?
Your doctor or a nurse will give you instructions on how to look after the wound until it has healed, and arrangements may be made to have dressings changed regularly. Most wounds are watertight after about 24 hours and do not need to be specially protected to prevent infection. However, the tissue at the site remains delicate for about 5–10 days and usually needs protection against physical injury.
When the local anaesthetic wears off, you may need to take painkillers to relieve any discomfort and a course of antibiotics to prevent infection. Your doctor will prescribe these drugs for you if necessary.
After some minor procedures, you may feel uncomfortable or a little faint, and you may need someone to take you home. You may be given a follow-up appointment so that the doctor can check that the procedure has been successful and that the wound is healing. If you have clips or staples, they will need to be removed. If you have stitches, they will also need to be removed unless the type of stitch that dissolves on its own was used.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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