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How to Cope with Pre-Surgical Anxiety

| Date Posted: 7/15/2022

PINEHURST, N.C. - About 30 to 40% of adults experience preoperative anxiety, or an uncomfortable and tense mood before surgery.


Psychological stress can also have an impact on recovery and wound repair, according to an Immunology and Allergy Clinics of North America study. David McPhaul, a recent patient of FirstHealth of the Carolinas, said he witnessed first-hand the effect low levels of anxiety can have on the surgical process.


The 63-year-old Raeford resident went to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital (MRH) in early April for a bronchoscopy with biopsy performed by Michael Pritchett, D.O., a pulmonologist with Pinehurst Medical Clinic and FirstHealth Specialty Services.


“This was the best surgery I’d ever had,” McPhaul said. “All the staff were so warm and nice and introduced themselves to me. They have an excellent team. It really helped me relax.”


A bronchoscopy allows doctors to look inside the lungs by placing a thin, flexible tube called a bronchoscope through the mouth and into the airways of a patient’s lungs. If a biopsy is needed, the surgeon will then remove a piece of tissue, or a sample of cells, to be tested in a laboratory.


Dr. Pritchett said medical staff are aware this type of procedure can sometimes cause patients additional anxiety or stress beforehand, even with the use of anesthesia.


“Everyone works hard to put patients at ease and keep them informed of the process,” he said. “I think that focus on patient care is part of what makes FirstHealth so special, and results in many positive outcomes.”


McPhaul was put under general anesthesia and said he felt no pain after the procedure. “When I woke up, I said, ‘I wonder when I’m going to the operating room?’ and they told me I’d already been and was in recovery.”


Scarlett Blue, administrative director of surgical services at FirstHealth, said excellent patient care is at the core of all services and staff strive to provide surgical experiences that mirror McPhaul’s, with maximum ease and minimal discomfort.


Symptoms of anxiety prior to surgery are a racing heartbeat, sweating, experiencing nausea, feeling nervous or tense, having shortness of breath and trouble sleeping. If you struggle with preoperative anxiety, coping tools include educating yourself about your procedure and discussing your fears with the surgeon. Breathing exercises can also help decrease your stress response, as well as building trust in your care team.


“I had no nerves before surgery because I felt so comfortable and everyone introduced themselves and was so nice,” McPhaul said.


FirstHealth of the Carolinas is a private, not-for-profit health care network located in Pinehurst, NC. Its 5,300 employees serve 15 counties in the mid-Carolinas. Licensed for four hospitals with 610 beds, FirstHealth demonstrates a commitment to treating the whole patient and to providing quality health care for the entire community. To learn more about FirstHealth visit

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