Surgery in progress
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Be a Know-It-All

Learn about your surgery and meet with your medical team. Talk to your surgeon and to the expert who manages your comfort and care during the operation, your anesthesiologist. Ask them questions about everything, from risks to healing time. Your hospital may offer classes that also can teach you about your procedure.

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Surgical marking
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X Marks the Surgical Spot

To prevent mistakes, your doctor or nurse may use a pen to mark the place on your body where you're going to have your surgery. Ask your surgeon if you should expect this with your operation.

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Anesthesiologist in surgery room
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Ask About Anesthesia Options

How you'll be numbed during the operation often depends on the type of surgery you're getting. Ask your anesthesiologist about your choices.

"Local" anesthesia numbs a small part of you, "regional" works on a larger area, and "general" affects your whole body.

You inhale some types of anesthesia, while others you get from a shot or through a vein (IV).

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Anesthesia awareness
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Don't Fear Waking Up During the Surgery

Coming to while under general anesthesia can happen, but it's rare to become fully aware. Most people that this happens to do not feel any pain. Talk with your anesthesiologist before your surgery if you have any concerns, or if you think it's happened to you before.

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Post-surgery patient
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Pain After Surgery

You may feel pain, pressure, or a burning sensation where you were operated on and as you start moving. Your muscles might be sore, and your throat may be uncomfortable.

Tell your doctor if you need pain medicine while you're in the hospital. And ask what your options are for relief when you get home. Besides medication, relaxation tapes, heat or cold therapy, or massage may also help.

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Close up of sudsy hands
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Fight Hospital Infections

After surgery, keep your hands clean. And don't be shy about making sure your doctors and nurses wash their hands or sanitize them before treating you. It can help keep you from catching infections like MRSA, a germ that's hard to treat.

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Angiogram of deep vein thrombosis
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Are You at Risk for Blood Clots?

Some surgeries can raise your chances of getting a dangerous blood clot called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). These can travel to the lungs and block blood flow, a condition called a pulmonary embolism. This can be deadly, but quick treatment can often save your life.

Things that can raise your risk for DVT include older age, being overweight, smoking, conditions such as cancer or previous clots, and some medications.

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Woman talking with doctor
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Discuss Your Medical Conditions

Tell your doctor if you have any health issues, including heart or lung disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, dental work, arthritis, or drug allergies.

Also tell him if you or anyone in your family has had a reaction to anesthesia.

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Mature man and doctor discuss medication
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Avoid Medication Mishaps

Tell your doctor about all the medicine you take. Some can lead to side effects during surgery. For example, blood thinners and aspirin can put you at risk for too much bleeding.

Your doctor will tell you which medications you should take before your operation and which ones to stop.

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Woman looking through supplements
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Surprising Supplement Reactions

Many supplements, such as ginkgo biloba, ginseng, garlic, echinacea, fish oils, or vitamins, may be risky to take before surgery. For instance, some may raise the chance of heart problems or bleeding. Others may affect how long anesthesia lasts or mix badly with other medicines, causing unexpected side effects. Your doctor may tell you to stop taking them 1 or 2 weeks before your operation.

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Woman donating blood
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Should You Donate Blood?

Ask your doctor if there's a chance you'll need a blood transfusion during surgery. If so, and your operation is at least 4 weeks away, you may be able to donate blood and have some of it stored in case you need it.

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Doctor giving second opinion
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Get a Second Opinion

Not sure surgery is right for you? Don't be afraid to get another doctor's view. Look for someone who specializes in treating your condition.

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Family caregivers
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Line Up Caregivers

You may need a little help getting around after surgery, so ask your family and friends for support. As you recover, let yourself be pampered and cared for. And for the first evening, be sure there’s a responsible adult who can stay overnight with you at home.

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Woman stocking freezer
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Stock Your Pantry and Freezer

Before your surgery, make sure you have plenty of healthy foods and drinks in your home. That way you won't have to worry about shopping during your recovery.

Don't have time? Ask friends or family to help out.

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Person wearing loose clothing
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Wear Loose Clothing

Dressing can sometimes be a challenge as you recover. If your surgery affects your movement, look for soft, loose clothes that are easy to put on and take off. Elastic-waist or loose-fitting pants and shirts that button, rather than pullovers, may be easier to wear.

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Interior of refrigerator and clock
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Don't Eat or Drink Before Surgery

Anesthesia can cause vomiting during or after an operation. Your body normally keeps you from inhaling food you spit up, but anesthesia can stop these reflexes from working. This can cause choking and other complications after surgery. So make sure you follow your doctor's instructions about when to stop eating or drinking.

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Group of men and women running
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Make Lifestyle Changes

People with healthy habits are often better able to handle surgery. Ask your doctor what you can do to get in better shape between now and your operation -- and then keep it up. If you prepare both physically and mentally, you're likely to have a quicker recovery, less pain, and fewer complications.

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refusing a beer
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Limit Alcohol

Drinking can have unpredictable effects on anesthesia and cause other problems, such as too much bleeding or liver damage. Be honest with your doctors about how much and how often you drink. Ask if you should stop drinking, or at least cut back, to help lower your risk of complications from surgery.

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Note written in planner to quit smoking
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If You Smoke, Stop

Smoking raises your risks of infections and other surgery complications. Quitting before your operation may also help you heal more quickly.

It's best to stop at least 2 weeks before surgery. Nicotine replacement treatments and support groups are just a couple of ways to help make it easier to end your tobacco habit.

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Man having blood pressure checked by doctor
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Check Your Blood Pressure

If you have high blood pressure, make sure your medical team knows. It's important to get it under control before surgery. Ask your doctor about steps you can take.

If you're on high blood pressure medication, don't forget to ask if you should take it on the day of your operation.

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Close up of woman carrying grocery basket
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Manage Your Weight and Eat Right

Eat healthy foods to get the nutrition you need to heal. If you're overweight or obese, you could be at higher risk for complications. While losing some pounds can help your recovery, don't start dieting without your doctor's OK if your surgery is less than a month away.

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Woman and man hiking in field
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Get Exercise

Doing so before surgery may help you recover faster. No matter your activity level, talk to your doctor about it. He can help you learn how you can safely be active before and after your procedure.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 01/22/2016 Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on January 22, 2016

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

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REFERENCES:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

American Association of Nurse Anesthetists

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

American College of Physicians, Annals of Internal Medicine

American Skin Association

American Society of Anesthesiologists

Arthritis Foundation

Arthritis Today

Brigham and Women's Hospital

Brown, M. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehab

California Pacific Medical Center

Carl R. Darnall, Army Medical Center.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Children's Hospital, Boston

Cleveland Clinic

Detroit Receiving Hospital

Marik, P. N Engl J Med, March 1, 2001

Mayfield Clinic

Medical News Today

Memorial Hospital

National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

National Institutes of Health

National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

NetWellness, University of Cincinnati

New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center

Ohio State University

Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons

The Nemours Foundation

Tonnesen, H. British Journal of Anaesthesia, 2009

University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine

US News Health. Detroit Receiving Hospital: "Preparing for Surgery"

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on January 22, 2016

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.