This article was written by our nurse Alex Matkevich RN.
What a common nursing note. Particularly after throat surgery, patients often do not feel like eating or drinking much. So why do nurses encourage their patients to drink fluids after surgery? Here is why is preventing dehydration after surgery important.
Our bodies are made up of 70% dihydrogen-monoxide, hydroxyl acid more commonly known as: water. Water is comprised of two hydrogen (a component of acids, hence hydroxyl acid) and one oxygen molecule. Atoms have gaps where they can bind to other atoms with gaps called valencies. Oxygen has two valencies, and each hydrogen atom with a valency each, bind to the oxygen molecule like so:
So what does this little molecule do in our body? Water is vital for cells: it fills up our blood and helps transport oxygen, it helps us eliminate waste products, cool us down, protect our wounds, keeps our organ tissues hydrated, aids in digestion… Water is used for every function in our body and is transmitted from the vascular spaces and extracellular to the intercellular spaces via osmosis.
At the cellular level, water is part of the vital process of adenosine triphosphate [ATP]. ATP could be nicknamed the fuel of our cells, or their molecular currency: it is intracellular chemical energy.
Once we run out of fuel, the engine stops without ATP, our cells shut down and we die. ATP is an unstable molecule in water, and when it comes into contact with H20, it becomes adenosine diphosate [ADP], releasing energy, shown in the equation below:
ATP + H2O → ADP + Pi
For our cells to repair properly after surgery, we need to help fuel them by providing them with water.
Having large mouthfuls of water after ENT surgery can be uncomfortable for many patients, and it is recommended to drink cool fluids, taking small, frequent sips. You could also try having food that has high water content, such as watermelon, junket pudding, cucumber or jelly. Though conventional jellies might be high in sugar, there are some low sugar options available. My personal favourite jelly trick is to set fresh fruit, such as lychees and pears into the jelly.
A clever idea
Sometimes inspiration comes from left field. My best friend recently had ENT surgery, and she was so excited to let me in on her post operative recovery secret: electrolyte iceblocks. Electrolyte iceblocks provide water, as well as essential electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, which can be lost with dehydration. They come in a variety of flavours (cherry, lemon-lime, orange, grape and berry), as well as sugar free options for those watching their sugar intake. NB: always follow the directions on the packet and never exceed the recommended daily limit.
For more information read our dietitian Belinda’s article about water intake and keeping hydrated, click here entwellbeing.com.au