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Surgery: What to Expect

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During Surgery

A special surgical team helps the surgeon with your surgery. This team usually includes:

  • A surgical technician (scrub), who passes instruments to the surgeon.
  • A registered nurse, who helps in many ways and writes the details of your surgery in your medical chart.
  • A nurse anesthetist or anesthesiologist, who gives you medicines and monitors your vital signs.
  • Other medical personnel, such as an X-ray technologist, who may be needed for your surgery.
  • Another surgeon to help your primary surgeon, if needed.

In university or teaching hospitals, doctors with different levels of surgical training may watch or help with your surgery. But your surgeon will be in charge.

The surgical team is trained to provide you with safe care during your surgery. Before they start, the team members will double-check your name, what type of surgery you are there for, and what part of your body is to be operated on.

Anesthesia

If you are having general anesthesia, a breathing tube (endotracheal tube) is placed in your windpipe or a special airway (laryngeal mask airway, or LMA) is placed in the back of your throat to help you breathe during the surgery. To learn more, see the topic Anesthesia.

Keeping things sterile

The place on your skin where the incision will be is washed with a special solution to remove bacteria. All instruments used during your surgery are sterilized to reduce your risk of infection.

Pain control

Pain control is an important concern. Near the end of your surgery, your surgeon may inject a long-acting pain medicine at the site of your surgery to decrease your pain for 6 to 12 hours after surgery.

In the recovery area

Right after surgery, you will be taken to a recovery area where nurses will care for and observe you. A nurse will check your vital signs and bandages. He or she will also ask about your pain level.

When you wake up, you may have a small tube just below your nose that supplies oxygen to your lungs.

You will most likely stay in the recovery area for 1 to 4 hours. Then you will be moved to a hospital room or you will go home. You may receive medicine or fluids through your vein (intravenous, or IV) during your time in the hospital.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 05, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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