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Getting Ready for Surgery

Pre-Surgical Evaluation, Medications Review, Physical and Emotional Readiness


Updated September 28, 2005

Prior to your operation, your doctor or surgeon will perform what's known as a pre-surgical evaluation. As part of this, she/he will review your medical history and ask about anything that could affect the outcome of the surgery, including existing medical conditions and allergies. You may also undergo laboratory tests, particularly if you have other medical conditions or problems. These may include blood tests, an electrocardiogram or EKG, and a chest X-ray.

If you have doubts about navigating the process of preparing for surgery on your own, consider having someone you trust, such as a spouse, a sibling or a friend, act as your medical advocate. This person can accompany you to doctor's visits, take notes, ask questions and see to it that you receive the care you need in the hospital.

Medications Review Prior to Surgery

You will want to be sure to provide your doctor or surgeon with a list of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you are taking. This includes over-the-counter products that you might not think are important such as aspirin, dietary supplements, and vitamins. Some medications can have a significant affect on your surgery, including how you respond to anesthesia. Be sure to:

  • Ask your physician for instructions on which medications to avoid or stop prior to surgery. If she/he directs you to suspend taking certain medications prior to surgery, confirm the dates on which you should stop. But do not stop taking medications you normally use unless you are advised by your doctor or surgeon to do so.

  • Bring medications in their original containers with you on the day of surgery. You will also want to bring x-rays, medical files or lab reports that may be in your possession with you on the day of the surgery.

Preparing Yourself Mentally and Physically Before Surgery

As your surgery date nears your doctor or physician will give you special instructions about bathing and showering, what you can eat and drink prior to surgery, medications to avoid, and so on. If you will be having anesthesia for your procedure, you may be told not to eat or drink the morning of or the night before surgery.

In the weeks before your surgery, prepare yourself physically for the rigor of surgery by:

  • Eating a balanced diet, rich in vitamin C (promotes healing of tissue)
  • Stopping smoking and excessive alcohol consumption (If you are unable to quit smoking entirely, even cutting back on smoking can help)
  • Exercising regularly (builds energy and strength)
  • Avoiding blood-clotting medications such as aspirin for one week before surgery

You can prepare yourself emotionally by:

  • Engaging in relaxation therapy
  • Doing deep-breathing exercises
  • Thinking positively
  • Employing visualization and imaging techniques
  • Understanding your post-surgical pain relief options

© 2005 National Women’s Health Resource Center, Inc. (NWHRC) All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the NWHRC. 1-877-986-9472 (toll-free)

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