Getting pneumonia after surgery can be quite serious. According to the CDC, studies have suggested that pneumonia acquired in the hospital can be fatal as often as 33% of the time. Your doctor will help advise on ways to protect yourself but here are some steps you can take.
- Follow your doctor's instructions about not eating or drinking before surgery. Usually, your doctor will tell you not to eat or drink after midnight the night before surgery. You must follow that advice. If you're going under anesthesia and still have food in your stomach, fluid or vomit may back up and get into your lungs. This can lead to one type of pneumonia called aspiration pneumonia. Happily, just following your doctor's advice greatly reduces the risk.
- Ask everyone -- family, friends, doctors, and nurses -- to wash their hands. Pneumonia can be caused by bacteria and some viruses. So you need to make sure that people who touch you aren't transmitting any nasty germs.
- Ask when you can start moving around. Lying flat on your back for a long time can increase your risk of developing pneumonia. So find out when it's safe for you to start sitting up and walking around.
- Do breathing exercises. Try taking 10-15 big, deep breaths each hour. You may also use an incentive spirometer to check your lung function.
- Stop smoking. Quitting smoking has many health advantages, of course. But if you are unable to completely quit, stop for at least a week or two prior to surgery. Giving your lungs a break will make them stronger and lower your risk of pneumonia.