Dr. Harness shares the questions women should ask about their postoperative mastectomy care.
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How long can I stay in the hospital is a good question, after my mastectomy? The number one thing to do is to check with the insurance carrier to see what they have approved, what the length of stay is that they have approved. Certainly, most, all carriers approve 24 hours, and then it will vary with carriers if they are willing to approve a second 24 and even a third 24-hour stay. The clock in hospitals run based on 24 hours, so number one issue is will the insurance carrier do it? If there’s a problem with the insurance carrier, can we appeal that? And there are circumstances under which we should appeal that. Number one, may be the age of the patient. Number two, may be there’s not proper care-giving at home. And so occasionally where there’s virtually no care-giving at home, we need to arrange, not very commonly, but need to arrange for the patient to be transferred to a skilled nursing facility to manage the drains that are typically there. It’s really important for patients to arrange that family members can come and be there. My particular hospital has policies that you cannot go home unless there’s an adult caregiver there, and we really emphasize the training of the caregiver in the management of the drains, not only how to measure the fluid, how to strip the drains, who to call if there’s a problem with the drains. We do that twice in my hospital. We do it as part of our pre-operative training of the patient or education of the patient by our breast center nurses. And then the nurses in the hospital do it again as part of their discharging process, and then we always say, call if there’s any problem with the drain.

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