How to Prepare for Ulcerative Colitis Surgery

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on March 25, 2023
3 min read

It’s become common for people to get ulcerative colitis surgery in the early stages of the disease. But whether you’re in the early or late stages or somewhere in between, you’re likely wondering how to prepare. Here’s what you need to know.

Prepare mentally. It’s easier to feel ready for what’s ahead when your day-to-day responsibilities are taken care of. Before your surgery, figure out how work and family duties will be handled. Be sure to request enough time off from work for your recovery (your doctor can tell you how much time you’ll need). If you have kids, try to schedule your surgery when school is out. If that’s not possible, get help with childcare.

Connect with a wound-ostomy nurse if you’re getting an ostomy. That’s an operation that changes how urine and stool leave your body. This type of specialist will visit you in the hospital and tell you what type of treatment is needed to help you heal.

Prepare emotionally. It’s natural to feel different emotions both before and after the surgery. Talking with other people who’ve gone through the same thing can help. Join an online or in-person support group for people with IBD. You can also reach out to a therapist.

Surround yourself with family and friends who can support you. Rely on them to get you to and from the hospital. They can also help prepare meals and handle household chores while you recover.

Prepare physically. Any surgery is a strain on your body. So it needs to be as strong and healthy as possible. It’s important to have a healthy diet high in protein and lots of water in the days and weeks before surgery. This builds up your immune system. Talk to your doctor about vitamins or minerals to take in preparation. Poor nutrition is a risk for people with irritable bowel disease. It puts you at a higher chance of infection from surgery.

Don’t drink alcohol the day before surgery. If you smoke, try to stop. Smoking slows down your ability to heal. This raises your chances for an infection.

What to bring. Pack a travel bag to bring to the hospital. Include comfortable clothes that are easy to move in. Bring a family member or friend who can provide support. Compression socks can help with blood flow in your legs and prevent blood clots.

What to consider. There are risks with any surgery. They may include bleeding, infection, and issues from your general anesthesia. Your surgeon can talk to you about possible risks and what you can do to prevent them.

Pre-operative appointment. For this you’ll go to the hospital about a week before your surgery. Your nurse will take your vitals and go over your medical history. You’ll also find out which of your medications to take or not take before surgery. You’ll talk about your colitis symptoms. Tests like a chest X-ray or an electrocardiogram may be ordered to show your heart strength. Your blood is drawn for the anesthesiologist to assess. This doctor prescribers your general anesthesia. It’s the medicine that puts you to sleep during the surgery and prevents you from feeling pain.

Talk to your surgeon. You’ll talk about the operation and the risks that come with it. Your surgeon will also talk about the benefits you can expect from it. This is when you should ask any questions you have.

Medical guidelines for prep. You may need to do a bowel prep the evening before surgery. This often includes strong laxatives to clean out the bowels.

Tools for recovery. One of your biggest tools to help you heal is good nutrition. Eat a soft-food diet the first few days after surgery and about 6 to 8 glasses of water each day. Light exercise helps the healing process when your doctor says you’re ready.