Preparation for Surgery and Hospital

What Do I Need to Know Before Surgery?

Your surgeon’s office will arrange a surgical date for you. Before that date, you may need to have preoperative testing, which will most likely consist of a blood draw and perhaps an electrocardiogram (EKG).  The testing will be arranged by the physician’s office, or the hospital or surgery center where you are having your surgery.

Prior to your surgical appointment you will be told what time you should arrive at the hospital or surgery center on the day of surgery.  You will also receive detailed instructions from your physician about food and water intake, as well as which of your normal medications you should take, prior to your surgery.  These instructions should be followed precisely.  If you are on blood-thinning agents (anti-coagulation medication), ask your surgeon how you should manage these medicines.

Many patients will use special antibacterial scrubs or soaps prior to their surgery. Your surgeon can provide you with a recommendation. Do not use deodorant prior to going to the hospital for your surgery. Ask your surgeon about whether you should shave underneath your arms on the day of your operation.

If you will be staying in the hospital overnight, remember to pack a bag with a change of clothing that will be easy to get on after your surgery.  You may also want to include a few toiletries, such as a toothbrush, hairbrush, or comb.  Do not bring any valuables, such as jewelry and credit cards, with you to the hospital.

Surgeries require anesthesia, which is given to patients to maintain their comfort during the procedure.  Although you will be up and about after surgery, patients who have had anesthesia are not allowed to drive themselves home and should be accompanied by another adult for at least 24 hours following surgery.  Therefore you should make the necessary arrangements.

Also be sure to address any concerns and fears about your surgery with your physician prior to your procedure so you can concentrate on your recovery afterwards.  The mind-body connection is an important part of the healing process.  Maintaining a positive attitude throughout your recovery will help improve recovery time and overall well-being.


Pre-Surgery Checklist for Patients

For all patients:
  • Surgery date
  • Pre-surgery instructions on food, drink, and medications
  • Family/friend to provide ride home
  • Arrival time to the hospital or surgery center on the day of surgery
  • Medication list
  • Contact list of family, friends, and support system
If staying overnight:
  • Toiletries
  • Robe and slippers
  • Change of clothes
If applicable:
  • Medical devices, such as a CPAP machine
  • Information on medical devices, such as a pacemaker or defibrillator
  • Advanced directives
  • Power of attorney


What Can I Expect After Surgery?

In the hospital

After your surgery, you will be transferred from the operating room to the recovery room. The surgeon will update your friend(s)/family member(s) on your procedure.  When you become more alert, you will be moved to an area where they will be allowed to join you. If you are going home, the nurse will review your doctor’s instructions on the following with you and your companion(s):

  • Removal of the dressing
  • Bathing, including the use of lotions and deodorant
  • Medications
  • Activity and diet

If you will be staying in the hospital overnight, you will be moved to a more comfortable room and your friends and family members may join you there.  Understandably, many patients like to have family members and friends at their bedside before and after their surgery; however, out of respect and privacy for all patients the surgery staff may limit the number of family members at bedside and the visiting hours. Prior to your discharge, a nurse will go over postoperative instructions.


Once You Are Home

You will need to have a postoperative appointment with your surgeon. One may have been made when your surgery was scheduled but if it wasn’t, contact the office within 48 hours after surgery to do so.  If the surgeon placed a drain into your surgical site, you may be discharged from the hospital with instructions for you and your family on how to care for your wound and drain. If needed, home health care can be arranged by your surgeon.

It is important to give your body time to recuperate. Rest is very important for your recovery, especially in the first few days following surgery.  If you work, ask your surgeon how long you must wait before returning to your job, and be sure that if you must lift heavy items or stand or walk for extended periods at your place of employment that your surgeon is aware of this requirement.

To help with any postoperative nausea, keep your meals light after surgery.  It is also important to stay hydrated by drinking water.  If you live alone, arrange for a friend or relative to check on you once or twice a day for a few days after your surgery.

Be sure you have a list of important phone numbers handy in case of emergencies, including:

  • Surgeon’s office
  • Hospital
  • Friends and family

Your physician will discuss with you symptoms that would require a call to his or her office for an immediate appointment. 

It is best to have someone available to drive you to your first post-surgery appointment; however, if that is not possible, check with your surgeon’s office to see when you can drive.  Do not drive if you are taking narcotic pain medications.


Post-Surgery Checklist for Patients

  • Post-surgical appointment
  • Arrangements for home health care, if necessary
  • Discharge instructions
  • Pain medications
  • Friend(s)/family member(s) who will check in on you periodically
  • Important phone numbers
  • Prepared light meals
  • Optional medications
    -Nausea medication
    -Stool softeners and laxatives, if you will be on narcotic pain medications
    -Antibiotics, if prescribed by plastic surgeon following breast reconstruction