Surgery: What to Expect - Before Surgery

You will have an appointment with your surgeon before your surgery. For this appointment, take along a list of questions about the surgery(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand your treatment.

Your surgeon will explain why your surgery is needed, what it will involve, what its risks and expected outcome are, and how long it will take you to recover. Talk to your surgeon about any concerns you have about the surgery. You may also want to ask about treatments you might try other than surgery.

Most surgery centers and hospitals have a before-surgery form for you to fill out. This form usually includes questions about your medical history and current health.

This information helps the surgical team prepare for your surgery. They are trained to provide you with safe care during your surgery. You most likely will complete the form 1 to 3 days before your surgery.

Talking to your surgeon

Talk to your surgeon about what kinds of surgery you have had in the past. Describe your recovery period, and be sure to mention any problems you may have had.

Describe any health problems you have, such as:

It's important to tell your doctor about any tobacco, alcohol, illegal drugs, or medicines you use. This includes over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements, such as St. John's wort and diet aids. Your use of substances or medicines may affect your reaction to anesthesia or pain medicines.

Talk about any physical restrictions you have, such as an artificial joint or limited range of motion of your neck, arms, or legs.

Let your doctor know if you have any metal implants or fragments in your body.

Tell your surgeon if you are or might be pregnant.


Tests before surgery

Before surgery, your surgeon may also ask you to see your regular doctor for an exam and possibly for tests. A surgeon may ask this to make sure that surgery is not likely to be too hard on you. The tests may include:

You may also be scheduled for other tests, such as X-rays or an electrocardiogram (EKG), if your surgeon thinks they are needed before your surgery.

Your surgeon may include other doctors in your care, depending on your other medical conditions. For example, if you have heart problems, your surgeon may discuss your care with a cardiologist.

If you have many medical problems, your regular doctor may do your physical exam before surgery. To help make sure that no problems are missed, you may find it helpful to have a doctor who knows you well do this exam and your medical history.

Donating blood

If you will need blood during your surgery, you may wish to donate your own blood. This has to be done several weeks before your surgery.

Blood Transfusions: Should I Bank Blood Before Surgery?

Talking to a nurse before surgery

Many hospitals or surgery centers have a nurse who will meet with you or call you at home a few days before your surgery. This nurse makes sure all your forms and tests are complete before your scheduled surgery. The nurse also:

  • Makes sure the date and time of your surgery are correct.
  • Talks about when you should stop eating and drinking before surgery.
  • Answers any questions you may have.

Preparing for surgery

Before your surgery, your surgeon or nurse will remind you to do the following:

  • Bring any X-rays or other tests that you may have.
  • Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If your doctor has told you to take medicines on the day of surgery, do so using only a sip of water.
  • Do not use aspirin or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) for 1 week before your surgery.
  • Leave all valuables, such as money and jewelry, at home.
  • Bring what you will need after surgery, such as your inhaler if you have asthma or a cane if you use one. Also bring your insurance information.
  • If you are having same-day surgery, arrange for someone to take you home. And make sure you have someone stay with you for the first 24 hours.
  • Shower the morning of surgery, but don't use any perfumes, colognes, or body lotion.
  • Remove all nail polish and body jewelry, such as piercings.


Just before surgery

When you arrive for your surgery, your nurse will:

  • Check your name, your birth date, and your signed consent for surgery. Your nurse will also check the correct body area for your surgery. If you have any last-minute questions, ask to discuss them with your surgeon.
  • Check your vital signs (temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen level).
  • Measure or ask about your height and weight.
  • Make sure you have not had anything to eat or drink for the length of time your surgeon told you.
  • Check your medical chart for any allergies you have and any medicines you take.

Your nurse will also explain to you what will happen and will reassure you to help you stay calm. He or she may go over a pain scale camera.gif, which may be used to help see how you are doing after surgery.

Your surgeon or the surgical team may also give you some information on what will happen after surgery, such as whether you will have special equipment, like another IV, a urinary catheter, or wound drains.

The nurse will have you:

  • Urinate and change into a hospital gown.
  • Remove any dental work, such as dentures or plates.
  • Remove any hearing or visual aids, such as hearing aids or contact lenses.

Pre-surgery medicines

The nurse will give you any medicines ordered by your surgery team, such as:

  • Medicines ordered by the anesthesiologist during his or her visit with you before surgery. These medicines will help you relax.
  • Antibiotics, if ordered by your surgeon.
  • An intravenous (IV) line in your arm or hand, if ordered by your surgeon or anesthesiologist. This gives you fluids and medicines before, during, and after your surgery.

Family and friends

The nurse will tell your family or friends how long you will be in surgery and in the recovery area. The nurse will also let them know where they can wait during your surgery.

The nurse will answer any questions you or your family members have about your surgery. Tell the nurse who you want to be contacted right after your surgery to talk about how the surgery went.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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