Top 10 tips for preparing for surgery

4 May 2018

Coming to hospital for surgery means a lot to think about, including being prepared.Private - How it works

Following instructions and bringing with you all that you need from home not only make your hospital visit more successful and comfortable, 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. Here are our top 10 tips for preparing for surgery:


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. Don’t eat or drink if you’ve been told not to. If your doctor has advised you not to eat or drink 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 condition.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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 replaced knee or other implant. 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 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 or you to attend another assessment.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.


  1. 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.