How to Prepare for Anesthesia

Medically Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on January 21, 2020

You don't have to worry that you'll hurt during surgery. Before it gets underway, you'll get medicine called anesthesia to block pain, help you relax, and sometimes let you sleep through the operation.

But to make sure things go smoothly, you need to prep the right way.

Do I Have to Fast?

Your doctor will likely tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the night before your operation. That's because anesthesia makes you sleepy and relaxed. The muscles of your stomach and throat also relax, which can cause food to back up and get into your lungs. An empty stomach helps prevent this.

Will I Need to Stop Taking My Medicines?

Your doctor may tell you not to use some of your medications a few days or more before your surgery because they don't mix well with the drugs used for anesthesia. You may also need to stop certain meds because they can make you bleed more during the operation, like blood thinners such as clopidogrel (Plavix) and warfarin (Coumadin), and NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen.

Blood pressure drugs and reflux medicines should be OK to take, but ask your doctor to know for sure.

How About Herbal Supplements?

Some of them can react with your anesthesia, increase bleeding, or affect your blood pressure during surgery. They include supplements like:

  • Black cohosh
  • Feverfew
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Ginkgo
  • Ginseng
  • Kava
  • St. John's wort
  • Valerian

Tell your doctor about every supplement you take and get their opinion on whether you need to stop using it.

What Type and How Much Anesthesia Will I Get?

It depends on the kind of surgery you have. Your doctor will also take into account things like your age, weight, gender, and overall health.

A special doctor called an anesthesiologist will make sure you get just the right type and amount of medicine. Your medical team will also monitor you closely during the operation to make sure you don't have a bad reaction to the anesthesia.

What Should I Tell My Anesthesia Doctor?

When you meet them before your surgery, they'll ask you about your medical history. Let them know if you:

  • Are allergic to latex, rubber, or medicines
  • Have a health condition, including high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, liver or kidney disease, sleep apnea, or thyroid disease
  • Have asthma, COPD, bronchitis, or other breathing problems
  • Smoke, drink alcohol, or take street drugs
  • Take NSAIDs or steroid medicines
  • Have numbness or weakness in your arms or legs
  • Have bleeding problems
  • Are pregnant
  • Reacted to anesthesia in the past

Ask your anesthesia doctor any questions you have about your surgery or the medicine you'll get. Make sure you're comfortable with your anesthesia team and that you know what to expect before your operation.

Do I Need Someone to Take Me Home?

It depends. If you have "local" anesthesia, which just numbs part of your body during surgery, you may be able to drive yourself home. But you won't be able to drive after "general" anesthesia, which puts you to sleep during the operation.

The same is true if you get some kind of "sedation" medicine, which relaxes you. Arrange for a friend or family member to take you home. And have someone stay with you for the first day while you recover at home.

WebMD Medical Reference



American Society of Anesthesiologists: "FAQ," "Preparing for Surgery," "Q&A: What You Should Know Before Surgery."

American Association of Nurse Anesthetists: "Before Anesthesia," "Herbal Products and Your Anesthesia."

PennState Hershey: "One Week Before Surgery."

Society for Pediatric Anesthesia: "Preoperative Fasting."

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