Your doctor may sometimes recommend surgery to treat your condition. Knowing what to expect on the day of surgery can decrease anxiety and help you actively participate in the treatment plan.
It is important to prepare yourself mentally and physically by understanding the whole process and your role. This can help ensure a smooth process with minimal complications.
Preparation on the Day of Surgery
Specific instructions regarding preparation for surgery will be provided by your surgeon. In general, this usually includes:
- Arrive at the hospital with a family members or friend one or two hours before your scheduled surgery so that there is enough time to prepare for the procedure.
- Avoid eating or drinking after midnight the day before surgery.
- Leave valuables and jewelry at home.
- Bring your medical and imaging reports.
- Inform your doctor in case you are taking any medications.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothes. You may have to change into a patient's gown so that the surgery can be performed easily.
- Inform your doctor if you are wearing any prosthetics.
- You or your caregiver will have to sign consent forms and admission papers.
- Sedative medication may be administered to help you stay relaxed just before the procedure. You may also receive other preoperative medications. An intravenous line will usually be started.
- You will be taken to the operating room where the surgical team will be present, they include:
- Surgeon: This physician is the head of the team and performs the surgery.
- Operating room nurse: They are registered nurses who will assist your surgeon during the procedure and provide pre and post-operative care.
- Anesthesiologists: They are doctors who provide medications so that you won’t feel pain and maybe put to sleep while undergoing the procedure.
- Certified registered nurse anesthetist: They will aid your anesthesiologist and will monitor you throughout the procedure.
- Surgical technicians: They help to clean, organize and sterilize the operating room and equipment to maintain a sterile environment.
- Based on the complexity of the procedure, a larger team may be present.
- You will lie on the operating table and anesthesia is administered. The type of anesthesia will depend on the procedure and may include:
- General anesthesia: This type of anesthesia is administered intravenously (through a vein) or is inhaled through a mask. You will feel sleepy and become fully unconscious during the surgery.
- Local anesthesia: This type of anesthesia temporarily numbs the specific part of the body that is to be operated on, but you will remain conscious throughout the procedure.
- Regional anesthesia: This type of anesthesia numbs a large region of the body while you are still conscious.
- The skin surface of the area to be operated will be shaved if needed and cleaned with an antiseptic agent.
- Your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing are continuously monitored throughout.
- After the surgery, you will be taken to the recovery room where you will be closely monitored and will awake if you were asleep for the procedure.
- Depending on the type of procedure you may be discharged home the same day or may need to stay a few days at the facility.
It is important to follow all of the post-operative instructions provided to you prior to discharge to ensure a successful outcome. You will also be provided with signs and symptoms to watch for and report to your doctor if they occur. Be sure to keep all follow-up visits with your doctor until you are completely healed.
Apart from the specific instructions given to you depending on the type of surgery you have undergone, the basic general instructions that you should follow after your surgery are as follows:
- Take pain relieving and other medications as advised. Pain relieving medication should be taken with food. After the first 48 hours of surgery, take the pain medication only when needed.
- Do not drink alcohol, drive a vehicle, operate any machinery or sign a legal document for the first 24 hours after the surgery as the effects of the sedative and/or the anesthesia administered during the surgery may last for the first 24 hours of the surgery.
- Use ice packs to control swelling. However, make sure that the ice bag does not leak into the dressing. Ice packs can be used liberally for the first 48 hours and even later, if required.
- Follow the specific restriction of activity, as advised. Remember that it is easier to prevent developing pain rather than managing it once it has already developed. Rest for a few days after the surgery and keep the operated extremity elevated, above the level of your heart, to control swelling.
- Keep the dressing clean and dry to promote wound healing.
- Try to begin physical therapy a day or two after the surgery. Exercises in the first week are usually aimed at regaining joint motion. Strengthening exercises are initiated later. Regular exercises are critical for a successful outcome.
- Eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of non-alcoholic and non-caffeinated drinks.
- Schedule your follow-up appointment with your doctor as advised.
Please consult your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Increased drainage from the incision
- Increased redness around the operated area
- Increased swelling that does not decrease with ice and elevation
- Foul odor
- Fever greater than 101°F
- Coldness, numbness or blanched white or bluish color of the fingers or toes
- Sudden calf pain or shortness of breath
- Chest pain