Skip to main content

Preparing for surgery: Steps to take before the big day

| Healthy You | Resources

Patient in wheelchair before surgery.

Take the mystery out of getting ready for an operation.

Surgery can be an intimidating experience, especially if you’re anxious about preparing. Here are some helpful steps to lessen the stress and make things go smoothly. 

Ask questions. In your pre-operative visit, ask all the questions you have — don’t hold back!

“Staying informed is one of the most important parts of your care plan,” says Joshua Schulte, MD, a general surgeon at PeaceHealth United General Medical Center in Sedro-Woolley, Washington. 

“Your surgeon will cover a lot, but patients should never be shy about asking questions. If you can, you may want to have someone go to the appointment with you so they can take notes as well and ask questions you may not have thought of.”

Some of your questions could include:

  • How will the procedure be performed?
  • How much experience does the surgeon have with the procedure?
  • Will I need a pre-surgery COVID-19 test?
  • Will I need a blood test or any other type of test? Don’t forget to ask how far in advance you should have each test and if you have to go somewhere specific to have it done.
  • Should I take my regular medication on the day of my operation?
  • What are my anesthesia options?
  • When will I be able to return to my regular activities (work, lifting, driving, exercise, etc.)?

Stay healthy. People with healthy habits, such as getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet, are often better able to handle surgery. Ask your doctor what you can do to tune up or maintain your diet, rest and physical activity between now and your operation — and then keep it up. You’re likely to have a quicker recovery, less pain and fewer complications.

“Also, if there’s ever a time to pay attention to hand hygiene, avoid exposure to illness and wear a mask in public, this would be it,” Dr. Schulte added. “The last thing you want to have happen is to get sick right before your surgery and have to reschedule.”

Plan ahead. You may want to visit the grocery store to stock up on nutritious food and drinks to make it through the time you’re recovering at home. Also, ask your doctor if there are any over-the-counter medications such as painkillers, laxatives and ice packs that would be helpful to have before your surgery. 

Follow any pre-surgery instructions from your provider. This could include not eating or drinking eight or more hours before surgery. For some operations, you may need to remove jewelry and not wear lotion or perfume. Your provider may also ask you to stop taking medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) or supplements like fish oil or iron, for a certain time frame before your appointment.

Set up your support network. See if a family member or friend can help you as needed during your recovery. Along with after-care help at home, arrange for someone to take you to the hospital and pick you up after your surgery. 

Relax. Practice deep breaths and other relaxation methods as you lead up to the big day. Taking a hot bath or shower might also help