Top tips for preparing for surgery – your guide

Coming to hospital for surgery means a lot to think about, including being prepared. That’s why we’ve shared our tips for preparing for surgery to help you feel ready and relaxed.

Following instructions and bringing with you all that you need from home will not only make your hospital visit more successful and comfortable, but it can also help to avoid unnecessary cancellations of treatment.

When you are invited to hospital for treatment, the hospital will write to you with clear information about what to do and what to bring with you.

Surgery preparation checklist

Here are our top tips on how to prepare for surgery:

Travel arrangements

Make sure you can get there. Don’t forget to make travel arrangements, as it is unlikely that you will be able to drive yourself to and from hospital. If you are relying on friends or family, give them plenty of notice so they can ensure they are free to help.

Packing for surgery

Make sure you have everything you need. If you are staying in hospital, make a list of all the things you might need and start packing a few days before. Think about nightwear, day clothes, underwear, dressing gown and slippers, a small hand towel and toiletries, sanitary products, books or magazines, a small amount of cash, your regular medication and the doses you take, glasses or contact lenses if you use then, and an address book with important numbers. Many hospitals now allow mobile devices, but check beforehand.

Nurse holding a patient's hand

Preparing for surgery – diet and wellness

Be as well as you can be. Research has shown that patients who maintain a reasonable level of fitness before surgery, have better results. Even moderate exercise can help so try to do what you can and take advice from your GP if you’re not sure. Think about your diet and lifestyle too – healthy food and giving up habits such as smoking have been shown to improve recovery post-surgery.

Eating and drinking before surgery

Don’t eat or drink if you’ve been told not to. If your doctor has advised you to stop drinking or eating for a specified period of time before your operation, always follow their advice. This includes light snacks, sweets and water. If you don’t then your operation might be cancelled. Having an empty stomach greatly reduces the risk of vomiting under anaesthetic. If you are on insulin for diabetes you will still need to follow the fasting advice, but let your medical team know about your medical condition.


Take your medication. If your hospital doctor has asked you to take any medicines before surgery, make sure you do so. If you take insulin or tablets for diabetes, please discuss this with your consultant as soon as possible before your surgery. As part of your pre-operative assessment you will have been asked about whether or not you are allergic to certain medication or if you or any of your relatives have had a problem with anaesthetic. If you have been told to stop taking any regular medication, including HRT medication, you must do so – if you don’t your surgery might have to be cancelled.

Pharmacist selecting some medication


Clean up before you arrive. Make sure to have a bath or shower before you arrive, and remove all body piercings, makeup and nail polish. As well as reducing unwanted bacteria in the hospital, it also helps the medical team to see your nails and skin so they can check your blood circulation.

Taking care of your skin

Avoid bites, scrapes and scratches. One of the many functions of the skin is to act as a barrier to infection. It keeps out the sort of bacteria which can enter the bloodstream and cause problems with a new hip, a knee replacement or other implants. This is why it is important to avoid cuts, grazes or even insect bites before your operation. Infected eczema, psoriasis, leg ulcers or other open wounds could also lead to an operation being cancelled on the day. If you damage your skin before surgery or you have a flare-up of a skin condition between your pre-operation assessment and your treatment, it is vital that you call the hospital and ask to speak to a nurse. The nurse will be able to discuss your concerns and decide if it is necessary for you to attend another assessment.

Preparing for surgery mentally

If you are anxious, speak up. Most people experience a certain amount of anxiety before an operation, but if you are really anxious don’t be afraid to contact the hospital to let them know. They will be able to provide all manner of advice and information to help allay your fears. Some may even allow you to visit the hospital beforehand to meet the team and see the care environment.

Arranging for help at home

Provide information to family and friends. Be sure to let family and friends know about your hospital’s visiting hours, and let them have a contact number just in case. If a family member or friend is taking you home when you are well enough to be discharged, make sure they know when and in plenty of time for them to be free to help.

Arranging for childcare

Everyone recovers at a different pace. Depending on the type of surgery you need, your age and fitness levels, you might recover slower than you initially thought. Which is why it’s a good idea to arrange for more childcare than you think you’ll need. A support network of friends and relatives can be extremely useful in offering transport and supervisory care for your children. If they aren’t available for a period of time, don’t take the chance on your mobility. Babysitters can be expensive but they’re more valuable than having to return to hospital with burst stitches.

Stocking up your fridge

One of the great innovations of our time has undoubtedly been the dawn of home food delivery. All your weekly food and drink needs delivered to your door without having to visit a supermarket in-person. If you’re preparing for surgery, it’s a good idea to stock up. Arrange for a delivery on the day you’re discharged to ensure you’ve got something to eat or drink. If you have friends and family, ask them to help you unpack your shopping when it arrives as it’s unlikely you’ll be mobile enough to do it yourself.

Preparing your home

If you have a date for your surgery, you should start to prepare right away. Removing hazards from your home (loose rugs and cables) to prevent falling, placing items within reach, and clearing space for walking with crutches, are all good ideas for preparation.

Pain management

Anti-inflammatory medication can help significantly. They can help patients manage pain – particularly of damaged joints. This can allow them to carry out daily activities and maintain a level of fitness. In the time leading up to and after your surgery, you should make sure you’ve got enough medication stored. This will eliminate the risk of running out at what could be an important time in your recovery. With that said, the frequency of medication consumption should be monitored. Ask your GP or consultant for advice on how often you should self-medicate.

If you need to cancel

What to do if you have to cancel. If, for whatever reason you are unable to come to hospital for your surgery, please let the medical team know as soon as possible. If you develop a cough, cold or fever a few days before surgery, let the medical team know so that they can assess whether or not it is safe for your surgery to go ahead. Let your hospital know too if you have had diarrhoea or upset stomach. Whether it is you or the hospital who has to cancel, every effort will be made to find an alternative date for your surgery, as quickly as possible.

Questions to ask when preparing for surgery

Below is a list of important questions to ask your healthcare professional before your surgery:

  • What are the potential short and long term side effects of the surgery?
  • How can I reduce the risk?
  • How do I know if surgery is right for me?
  • How do I get a diagnosis?
  • What happens during my surgery?
  • What are the pros and cons of general surgery?
  • Are there any alternative treatments instead of surgery?
  • What happens if I delay surgery?
  • How do I choose a surgeon?
  • How healthy do I need to be before surgery?
  • Will my insurance cover my surgery?
  • How can I pay for my surgery?
  • What should I eat the day before knee replacement surgery?

What should you not do pre-surgery?

The things to avoid before your surgery will depend on the type of surgery you are having and the advice of your healthcare provider. However, there are a few things you should definitely avoid. For example, you should avoid doing any activity that might lead to you damaging the skin around the affected area. Surgeons need healthy, undamaged skin to perform the operation. If you’ve recently cut, scraped or have a wound around the affected area, you’ll need to let your surgeon know. Your surgery may need to be rescheduled for a later date. Talk to your doctor or nurse if you’re not sure for more information.

Surgery preparation timeline

Once you’ve got your date for surgery, your preparation should begin. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got months or days to go, there are steps you can take to ensure you’re as relaxed and prepared as possible.

How to prepare: months before surgery

If there are a few months before your surgery, you might want to consider the following ways to start preparing:

  • Strengthen and condition your body prior to surgery. Try to remain as physically active and mobile as possible
  • Maintain a healthy weight. This will reduce the amount of stress that will be put on an affected joint post surgery
  • Try to start making some healthy lifestyle changes. For example, if you smoke, this would be a great time to quit.

How to prepare: weeks before surgery

  • Decide on the right payment option for you – self-pay, NHS or private
  • Book time off work if needed
  • Make sure you’re informed and understand what will happen during surgery, the potential risks and aftercare requirements
  • Ensure you have had all the necessary blood tests and examinations
  • Be sure to attend your pre-operative assessment where you might be given important medical tests to check your eligibility for surgery.

How to prepare: days before surgery

  • Avoid doing any activity that might lead to you damaging the skin around the affected area
  • Follow pre-surgery directions and diet if needed
  • Organise transport to and from the hospital.

How to prepare: the day of your surgery

  • Meet the surgical team
  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.

Choosing the right hospital for surgery

At Practice Plus Group Hospitals we’re passionate about giving patients a positive experience and excellent clinical outcomes, with personalised care every step of the way. Whether you’re using self-pay healthcare or private medical insurance, with our short waiting times, unrivalled Care Quality Commission (CQC) ratings and high levels of cleanliness and infection control, we’ll make sure you’re looked after.

Learn more about our private operation costs and commitment to quality.