What to Expect Before and After Surgery
Preparing for your surgery
If you have a few days’ or weeks’ notice to prepare for surgery, there are some things you can do to get your body in a fit and rested condition.
Try to fit a variety of healthy foods into your diet each day, even if you aren’t necessarily feeling hungry. It’s important for you to get enough vitamins and protein into your body. This will help speed the healing process, and you will be less tired following your surgery.
Get enough rest
The more rested you are prior to your surgery, the stronger your body will be. If too many phone calls or visitors are tiring you out, tell your friends that you need to rest up for your surgery.
It may seem odd to tell you to get rest and stay active at the same time. But you should continue to walk or do whatever exercises your doctor has suggested. Even light exercise will tone your muscles and promote relaxation.
You’ll find it less tiring to walk on flat surfaces at an easy pace. Stop any exercise at once if you notice signs of fatigue, pain or shortness of breath.
Bring a list of your medications
If you are taking any medications, you should bring a list (or at least know the names and purposes) of all of them. This list should include exactly how much and when you take them. Include cold medicines, vitamins, herbal supplements, skin patches and aspirin on your list if you are taking them. If you prefer, you may just bring all of your medicines with you so the nurses will know what you are taking.
If you are taking an anticoagulant (blood thinner such as Coumadin®), aspirin or aspirin-containing products, ask your doctor about them. He or she may want you to stop taking them 5-7 days before your surgery. Other medicines may also be stopped or changed. Be sure to take only what your doctor orders.
If you’ve not been a hospital patient before, you might find it a little strange at first. Knowing a few things ahead of time can help.
When you should arrive
Your doctor or a member of the hospital staff will let you know when to arrive for your surgery. Some patients are admitted the day of their surgery. Be sure you know:
- The date and time you are to check into the hospital
- Where to check in
- The time of your surgery
There are a few things you can tell your nurses in the hospital that will help them take better care of you, such as:
- Whom to contact in your family and how to contact them
- Foods you are allergic to or don’t like
- Any unusual reactions or allergies you’ve had in the past to medications or test dyes
- Any visual or hearing problems you have
- Who will be helping you at home following surgery
- When you took your last nitroglycerin
- Anything else you feel it is important to share
Things to ask your nurse
If this is your first time in the hospital, you may want to ask your nurse:
- When you will be receiving medications
- How and when to use your call light
- How your bed works
- How to use the telephone and television
- How to use any other special equipment you have been provided
Consent for Treatment
When you enter, you may be asked to sign a general “Consent for Treatment” form. Your doctor may also ask you to sign a special consent form for your surgery. The form will explain exactly what will be done in terms of your surgery, and will indicate any possible risks and outcomes. If you do not understand what the form says, ask for more information.
You may receive an antibiotic before your surgery to help prevent infection. Your doctor may also order a sleeping pill to help you get plenty of rest the night before surgery.
Nothing to eat or drink
Your doctor will probably ask you not to eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your surgery. It’s very important that you follow this directive. Your stomach needs to be empty during surgery so that you don’t vomit during the operation. If you must take medication after midnight, you may take it with a few sips of liquid. If your mouth gets too dry, you may rinse it with water, but do not swallow it.
What your family should ask
Before you are taken to the operating room, you family should ask your nurse about:
- The approximate time the surgery will take
- Where to wait while you are in surgery
- Where you will be taken after surgery
- When and how often they can visit you after the surgery
- What to do with your valuables, such as watches, jewelry and other items
- What items are permitted to be taken into intensive care, if that’s where you will be after your surgery
- What to do with your clothing, glasses, hearing aid, dentures, etc
The day of your surgery
On the morning of your surgery, you should awake early enough to shower, shave (men) and brush your teeth. You will be given a gown to wear to the operating room. At this time you will be asked to remove.
- Contact lenses
- Nail polish
- All underwear
- Artificial body parts
You may be given medication before your surgery. If so, be sure to go to the bathroom first so you can stay in your bed or in a chair if permitted. The reason for this is that the medicine will make you feel relaxed and drowsy. It may also make your mouth feel dry.
After you are taken to surgery, your family should take your things and go to the waiting area. You will not be returning to the same place after surgery. You will be taken to a postsurgical unit.