Patient Care

11 Things to Do Before Surgery

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Getting ready for surgery can seem like a big task, but your Washington University surgical team is here to help, every step of the way.

If you are planning to have scheduled surgery, there are several things you can do to prepare. Taking these steps will help ensure you are healthy, informed, and ready for the day of your surgery.

1. Make sure you understand your planned procedure.

Ask your doctor any questions about the surgery you are planning to have. It can help to bring a list of questions to your appointment.

2. Ask about your medicines.

If you take certain types of medicine, including blood thinners and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), your doctor might tell you to stop taking them before you have surgery. Check with your doctor before starting or stopping any medicines.

3. Eat healthy foods.

Getting ready for surgery is like training for a marathon. Your body will need a lot of energy to stay strong during and after surgery. Eat foods high in protein to help keep your muscles healthy. You should also eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which all have important nutrients your body will need.

4. Boost your activity.

Exercising and being physically active before surgery is a great way to improve your recovery. Physical activity can help speed up your recovery and reduce the risk for complications. For many people, walking 30 minutes each day is a good way to get active before surgery. Ask your doctor for advice about your activity level.

5. Strengthen your lungs.

Having strong and healthy lungs is important before surgery. Practice taking deep breaths and improve your lung health to have a full recovery.

6. If you smoke or use nicotine products, stop.

Smoking and using nicotine products, such as cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, wet and dry snuff, and vaping, increase your risk of serious complications after surgery. These complications include wound infections, healing problems, pneumonia, and heart attack. Your doctor can provide you with resources to help you quit smoking.

7. Care for your mental wellbeing.

It is normal to feel nervous or anxious before surgery. Recognizing those feelings and taking steps to create a positive mindset can help you go into surgery ready for a positive outcome. Steps like starting a gratitude journal, practicing mindful breathing exercises, and getting enough sleep each night can help improve your mental wellbeing before surgery.

8. Take advantage of your resources.

Getting in shape for surgery can be a lot of work. Your surgeon can offer tools and resources to help you be your best before surgery. If you received a booklet of information about your surgery, sometimes called a patient journey guide, review the information before the day of your operation.

9. Find someone to drive you to and from the hospital.

After a big surgery, you will not be able to drive yourself home. Plan on having a responsible adult help you get home from the hospital.

10. Get ready the night before surgery.

Your surgeon will give you specific instructions for what to do the night before your scheduled surgery. These instructions will also be in your patient journey guide if you received one. Typically, you will need to take a shower with a special antiseptic soap, wear clean clothes, and stop eating and drinking at midnight the night before your surgery.

11. Show up 2 hours before your scheduled surgery.

This will give you and your surgical team all the time you need to prepare for the surgery. You will need to answer some questions, sign paperwork, and meet with members of your care team before the operation.

Get Ready with Washington University Surgery

If you have questions about what to do before your scheduled procedure, Washington University surgeons can provide resources to help you feel confident and ready for surgery.

Your surgeon might suggest enrolling in the Surgical Prehabilitation and Readiness (SPAR) Program to be your best before surgery. The SPAR Program guides you on the journey to improve your diet, activity, lung health, and mindfulness.

As a Washington University surgery patient, you have access to a team of specialists who will work together to help you achieve your best outcome after surgery.