Preparing for Surgery

When it comes to getting ready for surgery, there’s an important benefit to staying calm, cool and collected: Your body tends to recover faster when it’s comfortable. The tips below can help you feel more empowered and less overwhelmed.

Before Your Surgery

  • Know your status. Inpatients spend at least one night in the hospital following their surgery. Outpatients enter the hospital the day of surgery and leave the same day. See our same-day surgery patient recovery plan (PDF, 3 MB).
  • If you smoke, quit or at least cut down before surgery. People who don't smoke heal faster than people who smoke.
  • If you have a fever, cold or rash, call your doctor or surgeon. Your surgery may need to be postponed.
  • Be sure to arrive at the day and time set by your doctor's office.
  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your surgery – that includes water, alcohol (liquor, beer and wine), gum or candy.
  • Ask your doctor if you need to stop any medications before surgery, such as blood thinners, aspirin, anti-inflammatory medicines, herbal supplements and diabetic medicines.

On the Day of Your Surgery

Before you leave home:

  • Take only the medications you were instructed to take by your doctor, with a sip of water.
  • Shower or bathe the night before or the morning of surgery with an antibacterial soap, if that has been provided to you.
  • Do not apply any lotion, powder, perfume or deodorant after bathing.
  • Remove all makeup, including lipstick and nail polish.
  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Remove jewelry, including rings, earrings and body piercings.
Bring these items:

  • Any X-rays your surgeon has asked you to bring. If you do not bring them, your surgery may be cancelled.
  • Insurance cards, prescription cards and photo identification
  • Money to pay your copay for your discharge prescriptions
  • A parent or legal guardian if you are under age 18
  • A small bag for personal items that you may need to remove, such as contact lenses, eyeglasses or hearing aids. Please keep the number of personal items you bring with you to a minimum.
  • Your completed Living Will or Power of Attorney for Health Care 
  • Any medications you might need and a list of medications you take

In the Hospital, Before Your Surgery

  • You will change into a hospital gown and be given an ID bracelet to wear.
  • Remove your eyeglasses or contacts. If you wear hearing aids or dentures, ask if you should remove them.
  • An intravenous (IV) line may be started in an arm or hand vein. This will provide medications and fluids during surgery.

General Surgery Information

Anesthesia: Anesthesia is medication that keeps you comfortable during surgery. There are 4 main types:

  • General anesthesia: You are asleep and unconscious.
  • Regional anesthesia (block): Certain areas of the body are numbed. 
  • Monitored sedation: You are kept relaxed and comfortable. You may remain awake during the surgery, or you may be drowsy or in a light sleep.
  • Local anesthesia: An injected medication numbs the surgical site.
Operating room (OR): Your OR team will include your surgeon and an OR nurse. Other surgical team members may include an anesthesiologist and a surgical assistant/technician.

  • A blood pressure cuff will be placed on your arm.
  • Sticky patches on your chest will monitor your heart.
  • A clip on your finger will measure the oxygen level in your blood.
  • If you feel cold, please ask for a blanket.
  • You will be cleansed with an antibacterial solution.
Post-op care: After your surgery, you may be taken to the recovery room. Some patients are scheduled to recover in an intensive care unit (ICU).

  • Your blood pressure, pulse and pain level will be monitored.
  • If you have nausea or vomiting, medication can be provided to help you feel better.
  • If a tube was placed in your windpipe during surgery, you might have a mild sore throat.

Recovery

To speed recovery, you may be asked to breathe deeply, cough and do some simple leg exercises.

Deep breathing and coughing helps prevent mucus from collecting in your lungs. If you have an abdominal incision, support your incision with your hands or a folded blanket when breathing deeply or coughing.

Walking and moving your legs helps your circulation and body functions return to normal. Don't try to walk until your nurse assists you.

After Your Surgery

Keep the incision area clean and dry. Wash your hands before and after touching the incision area to help prevent infection.

Inpatient

  • Make arrangements for someone to pick you up from the hospital and stay with you overnight. If you have sedation or anesthesia, you will need to have an adult accompany you home – you will not be allowed to take a cab or bus home by yourself.
  • Stay on a light diet for the first 24 hours after surgery. Suggested foods include gelatin, toast and soup. Drink plenty of liquids.
All surgical patients, including outpatients, should ask about:

  • Medication (how much and when to take)
  • Pain (what to expect, what to do)
  • When you can resume physical activity, including sexual relations 
  • When you can resume driving
  • Possible reactions between your regular medications and post-op medications
Follow-up care makes sure you are healing and recovering safely. Find out:

  • When and where to return for your first follow-up visit
  • Who to call to schedule the appointment
  • When your stitches, staples, drainage tube or cast should be removed
  • When you can return to work