Naked During Surgery?

| January 13, 2013 | 16 Comments

This is not an uncommon fear. I don’t want to have the whole world see me naked during surgery either.

There is only a certain set of individuals allowed in the operating room other than your surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurse. This includes any assistants that directly help the surgeon with the case and assistants that help with moving and transporting patients.

If anyone else out of this ordinary set of individuals will be present, you will sign a consent form to allow this to happen. For instance, if a health care student who is learning will be watching the surgery, you must give your permission before this can occur. If you are getting care in an academic institution, residents and students will usually be present. We all learn by seeing and doing things, and this is the way in which future doctors, nurses, and assistants are trained.

Many cases are performed laparoscopically and using cameras. If pictures are taken with this equipment (inside your body), it is for the reason of taking good care of you and documenting exactly what your surgeon saw and what they did. It goes without saying, though, that no other types of pictures are taken without your expressed written consent. We all take this very serious.

Most likely, you will be wearing a hospital gown. Learn about what to expect when wearing the gown here.

But I still don’t want anyone to see me naked you say. The honest truth is that for us, the operating room is our office. And it is professional work and serious business. Therefore, the only parts of your body that are exposed are the ones that are essential to be visualized for your procedure. And as soon as we can, we cover you up.

We all try and remember that we will one day be patients as well.

If you have any concerns or questions about how your modesty will be protected, please ask your surgeon, nurse, and anesthesiologist prior to surgery.

Thank you for trusting us to take care of you. And thanks for stopping by anesthesiamyths.com!

Have you had general anesthesia, a nerve block, an epidural, or a spinal recently? Let us know how it went by visiting and posting in the forum.

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Category: Anesthesia Topics, Day of surgery, The Operating Room

Comments (16)

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  1. Siobhan says:

    Great site and written with the man/woman on the street in mind. I had surgery yesterday and needed some reassurance today. I got it here. Thank you

  2. Ben says:

    I have a serious congenital deformity and have always worried about being seen naked in the operating room.

    After my last surgery, a couple of unit nurses made snide comments about my body right outside my open bedroom door on several occasions. These incidents were reinforced when I visited an obese friend in the hospital and heard a physician describe her as a “boat”.

    When I took anatomy and physiology as an undergraduate, we were sternly warned about treating the corpses respectfully and told that if anyone were ever caught joking about a corpse or treating it disrespectfully, he would be immediately expelled from the lab and course. Now, some medical professionals otherwise report they often joked about corpses in their labs.

    I am no longer quite so trusting of medical professionals in this regard and do wonder what they say about me while I am naked, unconscious, and vulnerable in the surgical suite.

    More surgeries are planned but I do not feel safe in this regard.

    • Ben,

      I am truly sorry to hear about your experiences. This is unacceptable.

      But I am thankful you bravely shared your story. It helps reinforce and remind all of us in the medical field to be respectful of all patients.

      It is a completely vulnerable experience to be a patient and be exposed.

      At the very least, your dignity should be well respected.

      I pray that this experience won’t happen to you again.

  3. lisa says:

    Why don’t hospitals tell patients they can where surgical shorts for most procedures? By willfully neglecting to tell patients this, the medical community is not acting in a professional manner and is not trying to minimize exposure. I just had surgery and when I asked they said “sure we can have a pair ready for you if you want.” The nurse basically said we have them but we just choose not to use them even though 80% of surgeries can be done with them on. Not professional.

    • David Draghinas says:

      Lisa,

      Thanks for your comment. I don’t think it’s quite that simple.

      I’m not sure most hospitals have the surgical shorts you mention. Although an even simpler solution is to ask the hospital staff if underwear need to be removed for that particular procedure.

      Surgeries that last longer than about 2 hours will likely require catheterization of the bladder. Sometimes even shorter surgeries also require this.

      I think that nurse, unfortunately, was not accurate in her assessment. At least not accurate for most hospitals and surgery centers in this country. I have worked at many hospitals and medical centers in my career, and I would say the overwhelming majority of OR personnel are mindful and respectful of patient exposure.

      Dr. Dave

      • Dr. Dave,

        It is often unnecessary to remove underwear for many surgeries that do not involve the genitals.

        I encourage you to check out an article about how a patient can protect his / her modesty for a colonoscopy at http://patientmodesty.org/colonoscopymodesty.aspx. A patient can wear special colonoscopy shorts or boxer shorts backwards to protect modesty.

        I also would like to encourage you to check out an article I wrote about how informed patient consent is missing from urinary catheterizations that was published on a retired cardiologist’s blog at http://patientprivacyreview.blogspot.com/2013/05/informed-consent-for-urinary.html. There are many other great articles on this blog about patient modesty.

        Misty

        • David Draghinas says:

          Misty,

          Thanks for sharing your detailed replies and your passion on this subject matter.

          I actually believe we are in agreement. My personal belief is that no patient should be exposed more than is necessary to safely perform the indicated procedure.

          Most anesthesiologists feel the same way I do. Again, thanks for your responses.

          Dr. Dave

      • Mark says:

        That makes me wonder – about what you say that a catheter being used for a surgery over 2 hours. I recently had an abdominoplasty. My surgeon said it took a little over 3 hours. My Incision was almost completely around to midline on my back. When I asked how they got the so far with the Incision he said they had to turn me over, this also was not mentioned to me before the surgery so I’m wondering if I had a catheter? There was only the surgeon, the anesthesiologist and 2 nurses present when I went in the room so I’m pretty sure they saw me naked, and I was already self conscious enough about that. so if I had a catheter I imagine it would have been one of the nurses who inserted it? They never mentioned any of it to me so I assumed I didn’t have one. Would they have told me if they put one in or not? How much do they do without telling you?

        • Mark,

          If catheterization is required for the surgery, it is commonplace for this to be discussed with you prior to the surgery. However, in certain situations, catheterization may not be initially needed but then may end up being required for your safety and monitoring during the procedure.

          If you would like to definitively know whether or not this took place, don’t hesitate to ask the surgeon or the nurse that took care of you during the procedure.

          Our goal is for you to understand everything that is going to take place in the operating room. This is called informed consent and is a very important part of our job as healthcare professionals. Some patients want to know all the details and some patients just want to know the basics. This is part of what makes every patient different and unique. But our ultimate goal is to keep you safe and informed consent is part of this process.

          Hope this helps. Let us know if you we can clarify any other issues.

    • It is true that patients can wear underwear / shorts for most surgeries. If the hospital refuses to provide you with surgical shorts, you can always look into buying 100% cotton or disposable surgery shorts. They cannot contain metals of course.

  4. I am very concerned about this article. Let me share my responses to areas I’m concerned about in this article:

    1.) “This is not an uncommon fear. I don’t want to have the whole world see me naked during surgery either.”

    There is only a certain set of individuals allowed in the operating room other than your surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurse. This includes any assistants that directly help the surgeon with the case and assistants that help with moving and transporting patients.”

    My response:
    There is no reason for many patients to be naked for surgeries. For example, it is ridiculous that a hand surgery patient’s gown was removed during surgery. Also, she should have been allowed to wear 100% cotton underwear / shorts and special bra under the gown. She was actually a nurse at her hospital who had expressed concerns about how patients were unnecessarily exposed.

    What about patients who request an all same gender team for urological and gynecological surgeries and their wishes are ignored? I encourage you to check out the story of Maggie who had requested an all-female team for her hysterectomy and was deceived at http://patientmodesty.org/Case.aspx?GID=1.

    Some hospitals allow medical students and sales representatives in the operating room without patient’s knowledge.

    2.) ” If anyone else out of this ordinary set of individuals will be present, you will sign a consent form to allow this to happen. For instance, if a health care student who is learning will be watching the surgery, you must give your permission before this can occur. If you are getting care in an academic institution, residents and students will usually be present. We all learn by seeing and doing things, and this is the way in which future doctors, nurses, and assistants are trained.”

    My response:
    I wish that this was always true. But some hospitals let medical students in operating room without patient’s consent. When some patients decline to let medical students to participate in their surgeries, they are still pressured into letting them be present.

    3.) “Many cases are performed laparoscopically and using cameras. If pictures are taken with this equipment (inside your body), it is for the reason of taking good care of you and documenting exactly what your surgeon saw and what they did. It goes without saying, though, that no other types of pictures are taken without your expressed written consent. We all take this very serious.”

    My response:
    This is very concerning even if patient gives permission to use camera. Pictures could somehow be distributed to people who were not authorized to see them. Do patients always know that the camera could somehow take pictures of their private parts even if they were not involved in the surgery?

    4.) ” But I still don’t want anyone to see me naked you say. The honest truth is that for us, the operating room is our office. And it is professional work and serious business. Therefore, the only parts of your body that are exposed are the ones that are essential to be visualized for your procedure. And as soon as we can, we cover you up.”

    My response:
    Many patients do not want their private parts to be unnecessarily exposed to medical personnel no matter how professional and skilled they are. Keep in mind many patients do not want their private parts to be seen by opposite sex medical professionals no matter how much experience they have. Patients should always be allowed to wear 100% cotton underwear for surgeries that do not involve their genitals. Most patients who care about modesty do not mind having opposite sex medical professionals involved in their surgery if they are having surgeries on knee, hand. etc. as long as their private parts are never exposed.

    Misty

  5. Randy Knickerbocker says:

    As a husband, I have issues with other men seeing my wife nude. I understand Doctors have seen countless naked bodies. However, I also feel you can’t take the man out of the man. We are wired different than woman. Recently shemy wife had successful ovarian cyst removal surgury. Present in the operating room were two male doctors, two male nurses, and one female anesthesiologist. I have issues with this. I can’t believe none of the males in the room ever looked at her and fantasized.about her. if not then, later. I have no way of knowing if she was covered up, if her modesty was cared for. I wish men were different, but we aren’t.

    • Randy,

      Thanks for your candid response. In short, I feel what you are saying — we are all human. I would feel the same way if my wife was in the same position as yours.

      The only solace I can give you is that healthcare personnel are human just like you. We realize it could be our naked body on the table as well. So we treat the situation just as you would if you were in our shoes.

      Not to say that by any means we are all perfect. Or that all healthcare personnel are perfect.

      I think my overwhelming theme is that if you have certain concerns, let your doctor know! I know I would grant a specific request if it did not get in the way of patient safety, but also led to a more pleasant experience for the patient and family. I am confident that our colleagues would do the same.

      It could be our wives in the same situation as well.

      Thanks again for your comments.

  6. Edward Hensley says:

    I have a question. I was just reading a story where a guy woke up during a “Hand Surgery” and he was completely nude in front of everyone then covered back up after it was over. Can someone explain to me why this poor man had to be exposed like that for hand surgery? I’m looking in getting my hand operated on but if I have to go through that I will just stay in pain.

  7. Mark says:

    From what I understand, colonoscopies are considered clean procedures, not sterile. That being the case if the facility won’t provide same-gender caregivers or colonoscopy shorts for the screening, I see no reason not to allow a male patient to wear a pair of boxer shorts backwards or a jockstrap to hide his genitalia for the procedure.

    After the procedure he just has to change into a 2nd clean pair of underwear in private.

    The testing should at the patients request be allowed to be done without sedation just pain mitigation if necessary.

    Many american hospitals and clinics, won’t do the procedure without drugging the patient with versed/fentanyl and/or propofol. The drugs make you compliant and give you anterograde amnesia so you don’t remember what they did or did not do.

    For a colonoscopy most of the time you are not fully sedated. You just think you are because of the drugs they used.

    What are they trying to hide?

    That is totally wrong in my opinion.

    Unless a patient who is going in for surgery or a procedure specifically tells his/her doctor and/or anesthesiologist “I don’t want to remember anything from today” neither the doctor or the anesthesiologist has the right to use any drugs on a patient that would cause them to forget what happened.

    It’s unethical. That tells me they have something to hide.

    Surgery is a life event.

    If a patient chooses of their own free will not to have the memory of the days events erased, then the doctors and nurses should advocate for that patient and not use drugs that would erase the memory.

    What’s really scary is how does the patient really know that his or her wishes are being followed while they are under anesthesia.

    I’ve learned to write myself notes of actions I have taken up to any procedure. That way I can look back on my notes & know it they did something. I also get copies of my medical records. That will tell me a lot also.

    I learned the hard way not to trust healthcare personnel.

    Many times my gown would get pulled off and I would be left in a state for all to see.

    If I’m correct, that is a HIPPA violation.

    The government needs to put a stiff fine in place on the hospital & the employee should get terminated after the second offense every time a patient files a legitimate complaint for this kind of violation.

    It’s time for the government to stop listening to the hospital & start listening to the patients that are being violated.

    Until that happens, it won’t stop.

    I learned to always ask and re-ask questions.

    If my questions are not answered by everyone involved in my care to my satisfaction, nothing proceeds. I’ve pi**ed off a few doctors because of that but it’s my body and in the end the final choice belongs to me not the doctor..

    I have had a hydrocele for many years now. The doctor says I should get it fixed since there is a lot of pain involved now since it’s been going on for so long.

    I keep telling the doc when the hospital can provide me with same-gender caregivers for the outpatient procedure & ultrasound, I will proceed. Not until. I looked locally within 25 miles for a male tech to do the ultrasound but there are none.

    The doc at least decided to bring it up at the hospital board meeting because apparently I wasn’t the only male patient that wouldn’t go forward because of gender issues.

    Hospitals don’t go out of their way to hire too many male nurses and techs and from reading many different blogs there are a lot of men looking for these tech & nursing jobs. They say the hospitals tell them they are looking for women. That’s job discrimination if they are just as qualified.

    Patient modesty is not the joke that the healthcare industry seems to think it is. People aren’t going and getting the care they need because of the attitude of many (not all), healthcare providers.

    The healthcare industry needs to change. Laws need to be beefed up and changed where needed to effect these changes as the healthcare industry has shown they can’t/won’t do it by themselves.

    Mark.

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