Preparing for Surgery

In the days and weeks leading up to your surgery, you will need to start preparing yourself, both mentally and physically. Any surgery can be stressful, but with enough preparation, much of your anxiety will go away.

Educating Yourself

One of the best ways to prepare yourself for surgery is by learning about the surgical procedure and asking questions of your doctor. Well-informed patients are often more satisfied with the results of their surgery. Before you arrive at the hospital:

  • Meet with your doctor and anesthesiologist. Some hospitals include this as part of the pre-operative assessment.
  • Ask many questions of your doctor and anesthesiologist, such as about the risk of complications, healing time, type of anesthesia that will be used and the best ways to speed your recovery.


Attending Your Pre-Operative Assessment

Many hospitals require that you meet with a doctor or nurse before your surgery—either in person or over the phone—one or more days before your operation. During this meeting, you will be asked about:

  • Your health
  • Your medical history
  • Results of previous tests
  • Medications, vitamins and herbal supplements that you are taking.

You may also be required to have pre-surgery blood tests. Be sure to follow any directions that your doctor gives you, such as fasting before surgery, when to stop taking your usual medications and what to bring with you.

Fasting Before Surgery

You may be required to stop drinking or eating before your surgery. It’s important that you follow your doctor’s instructions because having food or liquid in your stomach can cause you to vomit during or after surgery.

Packing For Your Trip

Pack an overnight bag with the essentials, such as:

  • Nightgown or pajamas
  • Day clothes and clean underwear
  • Toiletries, including razor and travel-sized bath products
  • Books or magazines
  • Small amount of money
  • Your usual medications

Bring loose-fitting clothes to wear after your surgery. Button-down shirts will be easier to put on than pullovers. Pants with elastic bands may be more comfortable after surgery.

Getting To and From the Hospital

After surgery, you may not feel well enough to drive yourself home. Make arrangements with your friends or family beforehand. Some hospitals may provide assistance with transportation after surgery.

Preparing Your Home for Recovery

When you arrive home after your surgery, the last thing you want to do is worry about shopping for food or cleaning your house. Stock up on healthy foods, buy extra personal hygiene products and medical supplies, and change the linens on your bed.
Take care of these things before your surgery, or ask a friend or family member to help you during your recovery. This may include asking someone to stay at your house to keep an eye on you.

Living a Healthy Lifestyle

Having a healthy lifestyle can speed your recovery after surgery, and reduce the complications and pain associated with surgery. Make changes to your life before surgery, as soon as possible:

  • Eat healthier: increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, cut back on foods high in saturated fats and reduce your intake of processed meats.
  • Exercise more: Most guidelines suggest at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week.
  • Reduce your alcohol intake (or stop completely) at least 1 month before surgery. Alcohol can interact with anesthesia and cause excessive bleeding or liver damage.
  • Stop smoking at least 2 weeks before surgery. Smoking increases the risk of infection and surgery complications. Quitting before surgery can also help you heal faster.

When to Ask for a Surgical Second Opinion

No one wants to find out that they need surgery. There can be many scary unknowns. However, there are times when an operation is an absolute must to relieve pain, cure conditions, and restore health. If you have come to that point and your doctor has just informed you that you need surgery, you may feel a little overwhelmed or afraid.

Although your doctor may be 100% right that you need a surgical procedure, there is always room for human error or opinion-based decisions. There are times when a second opinion should not be just thought of as an option—it should be considered a must. How do you know when it’s the right idea to get a second opinion?

There is No Rule

There is no specific rule that gives you a clear-cut line when you should get a second opinion. However, there are some things you should discuss with your doctor or research on the Internet. Asking the right questions will tell you a few things.

  • Why do you think I need this operation?
  • Are there other alternative options to surgery to consider?
  • What would happen if I chose not to have surgery?
  • What are the risks and dangers of this surgery?
  • Will the operation completely improve my condition or will I still have problems?
  • Will there be negative changes to my body as a direct result of the surgery?
  • Are you 100% confident that surgery is my only option?

If you can, get these answers from your doctor.

It is Your Decision

The bottom line is, it is your decision. Even if you cannot find any other option but surgery, there is nothing wrong with getting a second opinion to ensure that it’s the right option for you. Often if you are having trouble committing to the surgery, then hearing the same advice from another expert can confirm what you know and help you go ahead with that decision.

When should you get a second opinion? Often, you will want to consult another professional if there is any waver or if there are any other treatment options. Bottom line – it is your decision. 

What’s It Like to Have Surgery?

If your doctor has scheduled you for an operation, you are probably already wondering what’s it like to have surgery?

For most people, just the thought of having surgery can be stressful. You can reduce much of your anxiety by learning what to expect both during surgery and recovery afterwards.

Your surgery experience will vary depending upon the condition being treated and the type of surgery. The two main types of surgery are:

  • Inpatient surgery: Done in a hospital, inpatient surgery requires you to stay overnight for one or more days to allow the doctors and nurses to monitor your condition.
  • Outpatient (also known as ambulatory) surgery: This is done in an outpatient clinic or hospital. You will be able to go home on the day of the surgery.

In general, when you have surgery, you can expect the following steps, although outpatient surgeries may not involve all of these.

Pre-Surgery Check-In

When you arrive at the hospital or clinic for your surgery, you will be asked to provide information about your:

  • health insurance
  • medical history
  • current pain or symptoms.

A nurse will take your vital signs, such as your blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. You may also need to have other tests, like X-rays or blood tests.

You will be given a paper or plastic bracelet to wear that allows hospital staff to identify you easily.

Often, you will not be allowed to eat or drink anything for several hours before you have surgery. Food or liquid in your stomach can increase the risk of complications, or cause vomiting during or after surgery.


For most surgeries, some type of medicine (anesthesia or anesthetics) is used to make you fall asleep or to numb part of your body so you don’t feel it during surgery.

These medicines are given before your surgery, and include:

  • General anesthesia: This will make you unconscious during the surgery. If this is used, an anesthesiologist (a doctor or nurse) will monitor you during the surgery and adjust the medicines, if needed.
  • Local anesthetic: These are used to numb the area of the body where the surgery will be done. You may also be given a drug that doesn’t put you to sleep but will make you drowsy.

Surgery Preparation

The hospital staff will prepare (also called “prep”) you for having surgery. This includes:

  • Cleaning or shaving (if needed) the part of your body that will be operated on.
  • Asking you to remove your jewelry, hair ties and contact lenses.
  • Providing you with a hospital gown to wear (instead of your clothing).
  • Having an IV (intravenous) line inserted in your arm by a nurse. This is attached to a bag of fluid and is used to give you anesthetics, fluids or medicines needed during surgery.
  • Hooking you up to equipment that monitors your blood pressure and heart rate.

During Surgery

In the operating room, you may notice that the doctors and nurses are all wearing protective clothing. This includes masks, gowns, caps, booties and plastic eyeglasses. These are worn to reduce your chance of getting an infection during surgery.

In some hospitals or clinics, medical or nursing students may be present in the room during your surgery. They are there to watch and learn the procedure.

Recovery After Surgery

After surgery, you will be taken to a recovery room (also known as the postoperative room, or post-op). Your condition will be monitored by nurses for up to a few hours, depending upon the type of surgery.

When you wake up from the general anesthesia, you may feel confused, groggy, nauseated, chilly, or even sad. When you are fully awake, the surgeon will meet with you to tell you how the surgery went.

If you experience any pain after surgery, you will be given pain medications (either pills or in your IV line). You may also be given antibiotics to reduce your chance of infection.

If you are staying overnight in the hospital, you will be brought to a hospital room, where nurses will monitor your condition until it is time for you to leave.