No relaxing after surgery

April 21, 2009 6:48:06 PM PDT
Anyone undergoing surgery used to be told to take it easy. Now, doctors want patients up and out of bed as soon as possible. One local hospital shows us a new tool it's using to help patients get back on their feet.

Jean Minetta recently had surgery for lung cancer. It was major surgery, so she was surprised when her doctor asked her to get up the next day.

"With all the tubes and everything else, I didn't know if I could, I could never have held on to a walker this way."

But while she was picturing one thing surgeon Avi Lebenthal at Fox Chase Cancer Center had something else in mind a walker specifically designed for thoracic or chest surgery patients.

"They put me in this walker, and darn, it was wonderful."

After chest surgery, patients are often hooked up to a number of tubes and catheters.

"A patient will come out of the operating room with a chest tube, sometimes 2 chest tubes. They will often require a little bit of oxygen to help them oxygenate their lungs properly," explained Dr. Lebenthal.

The day after her surgery, Jean was able to move easily with the walker. It accommodated all of her lines, with no worries about becoming disconnected. And the adjustable arm rests helped her feel safe on her feet.

"I mean, I felt secure because it was the perfect height."

Doctors say encouraging patients to move around more after an operation cuts complications.

"We find less pneumonia. And these really the key benefits, as well as a decrease in the incidence of pulmonary embolism, because they're moving their feet. The blood is flowing in the legs, and so there is less of a chance for a clot to form."

Jean's recovery went smoothly, and she was back at work in 3 months. Fox Chase is one of just 4 hospitals in the country with the thoracic walker, and the only one in the Philadelphia area.

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