We recently received a query from a follower asking why she had to remove her jewelry and piercings before surgery.
This is an excellent question and something that will come up as you prepare for an imminent surgery. For more detailed discussion on surgery preparation and recovery, please see our other post “Surgery Preparation and Recovery: What to expect”. We hope you enjoy the following and if you are researching due to an upcoming surgery, we wish you the best and hope you have a quick recovery.
There are several reasons why you should remove your jewelry and body piercings prior to surgery. While some might be able to pass safely, it is always best to err on the side of caution and reduce the potential for complications.
While not common, some jewelry can obstruct and may potentially cause harm if left in place during a surgical procedure or imaging session.
Depending on where the piercing is located, it could easily get caught on fabric, surgical drapes, clothing, and surgical towels in and around the operating table. While the doctors and nurses are performing the surgery it is not outside the realm of possibility that a piercing gets caught and snagged, causing bodily harm to an unconscious patient. The worst case is that it does bodily harm, whereas the best case involves the piercing being removed and potentially lost.
Furthermore, jewelry can get in the way of a procedure altogether, here it is just common sense. But if you are having hand surgery take off the jewelry on the hand, likewise for stomach surgery with a belly button ring or nipple rings for breast augmentation surgeries. These are the simple things on the list of how best to prepare for surgery.
However where it can get particularly tricky especially for anesthesiologist and for sterile factors in general are tongue and lip rings. This is tough because often times, the anesthesia is administered via a breathing tube. In addition, “there is a machine called a Bovie that is often used during surgeries. In rare cases, electricity can arc between the machine and metal (such as jewelry) and cause burns1.”
Lastly, there are other complications that can arise from imaging sessions such as x-rays and endoscopies. The former can interfere with the imagery taken - say at the dentist - while the later, much like the endotracheal tube for anesthesia can get caught or cause injury. And of course, if you are going in for an MRI2, definitely take out the jewelry, especially if it is metal. Plan on using a non-metallic spacer to ensure the hole doesn’t close as these delicate procedures can be lengthy and often require a patient to refrain from moving for a long time. In general, the MRI operator needs to know what metals are in the body in general so that they can prep and calibrate the machine properly.
Impacts to Post-Surgery Recovery
As mentioned in other HealFast articles, a patient’s body undergoes extensive trauma during a surgical intervention. Flesh is damaged and the body’s natural healing mechanism will immediately kick in. “Surgery poses a catabolic stress on the body, which triggers inflammation and depletes nutrients; this, in turn, can impair the immune response and increase the risk of postoperative complications, especially infections.3… Surgery is like a sport... if you're not well trained, if you're not ready for surgery, you're not going to do well.4”
This inflammation and swelling is very common and can cause items like rings to become too tight. It can become impossible to remove them and even cut off blood flow circulation. Ultimately, it may require your jewelry to be cut off if the restriction is too serious. What’s worse is that this swelling can occur even after you have left the hospital. Studies have shown that 40%5 of all complications can happen after discharge and that 25% of patients will be readmitted to the hospital within the first 30 days of discharge6.
Even if you were to take surgery safe supplements and anti-inflammatories, this would only partially help reduce swelling artificially created by the jewelery’s presence. This complication should be seriously considered when weighing your options to remove jewelry prior to surgery. If anything, things can easily get lost or even stolen in a hospital. Hopefully that will be the least of concerns depending on your surgery type.
The easiest thing to do when having surgery is to remove all of your jewelry, both piercings and rings and necklaces, alike. Plan ahead and use spacers for holes that can close within hours regardless of how long they've been in place. This will save you a lot of potential headaches including lost or stolen items, potential bodily harm, and improved post-surgery recovery by eliminating excessive swelling and other complications.
MRI of the Body. Radiology Info.org. Accessed 2013. http://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info.cfm?pg=bodymr
Hegazi RA, Hustead DS, Evans DC. Preoperative standard oral nutrition supplements vs immunonutrition: results of systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Coll Surg. 2014;219(5):1078-1087.
JAMA Surgery Published Research
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
General Disclaimer: All information here is for educational purposes only and is not meant to cure, heal, diagnose nor treat. This information must not be used as a replacement for medical advice, nor can the writer take any responsibility for anyone using the information instead of consulting a healthcare professional. All serious disease needs a physician.