Anaesthesia Information Page

Having an Operation

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How should I prepare before an operation?

If you live a healthy lifestyle then this is the best way to be prepared for an operation. Anything that improves your health will also decrease your chance of having problems from your operation. This includes reducing alcohol, stopping smoking and eating a well balanced diet. If you do have health problems then you should see your local doctor to ensure your medication and health state is optimised. Find out from your family members if anyone in the family has had any problems with anaesthesia or surgery and write down anything relevant. If you have a history of operations, write down what you had, when you had it, and any problems that you recall. If you have questions that you think you might forget on the day write them down. Take all your medications in their containers and any X-Rays and doctor's letters with you to hospital.

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Preadmission clinic
Being assessed before coming into hospital

With the increasing tendency towards reducing hospital stay many hospitals now will see you at length before the actual day of operation. Attending this preadmission clinic allows your health to be checked and the operation planned. You are seen by one of the doctors treating you and possibly an anaesthetist to discuss the operation and anaesthetic, see how healthy you are, order any special tests (like blood tests and cardiographs), and give you special instructions or further treatment. While preadmission clinic is not used all the time, when it is used, it is the perfect opportunity for you to have any questions answered regarding your operation, anaesthetic and what to do with your medications.

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What do I do with the medications and remedies I am taking?

If you do not get to attend a preoperative clinic there are some basic rules to follow with your medications. Take all of your prescribed medications as you have been taking them up till the day of surgery unless you have been otherwise instructed. If you are on aspirin you should stop it two weeks before the operation unless you have been advised otherwise. If you are on blood thinning drugs (like warfarin or coumadin) then you must consult your doctor before the operation about what to do. If in doubt, ask for advice. If you are going into hospital the day before surgery your medications will be managed for you once you are in hospital. If you are going into hospital on the day of the operation you should take all your medications at 6 am with a little sip of water except for diabetic medications and blood thinning drugs.

If you are using over the counter drugs, herbal or natural remedies or supplements of any kind stop taking them as soon as possible and preferably two weeks before the operation unless you rely on their actions (like painkillers). While over the counter drugs have their ingredients and actions well known, many alternative therapies' ingredients are not well documented and their interraction with drugs and surgery are not well known. Some have been shown to raise blood pressure, thin the blood and prolong the effects of anaesthetic drugs.

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Before surgery
Before going to the operating theatre

If you arrived on the day of surgery, all your details will be taken and checked. You will be given a gown to change into and be placed in the waiting area in a seat. You will have plenty of opportunity to go the toilet at this stage. At this time your anaesthetist will visit you and take a history and examine you. They may order further tests or Xrays. A "premed" may be given to you. This most often is medication to decrease the acid in your stomach, relaxing medicine or pain-killers. Your anaesthetist will decide if this is approprate.

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Your time in the operating theatre

The time operations take is unpredictable so when you will go to the operating theatre will not be a fixed time, but determined by what operations are happening first. When it's time for your operation you will walk or be wheeled to the check in area in theatre. Your details will be checked and you will be taken to the operating room or the anaesthetic room if the hospital has them. Here a drip will be put in and you may be given relaxing medicine. Often you do not remember much after this but you are then prepared for your operation by having some routine monitors put on you that monitor your heart, pulse, blood pressure and oxygen levels. You may have some regional anaesthetic procedure or other lines put in before you are put on the operating bed. Here you are either put off to sleep or made comfortable for the operation. Oxygen is almost always put on you by a face mask or little prongs under your nostrils. Your anaesthetist remains with you in the operation at all times fine monitoring your body systems, tuning your anaesthetic, giving other drugs and fluids and ensuring your safety.

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After surgery
After you leave the operating theatre

When the operation is over you are helped onto a trolley and wheeled into the recovery room. Here nursing staff will watch you closely for at least half an hour as you recover from your anaesthetic to ensure you are safe and free from pain and nausea. When they are satisfied with your condition you will be moved either to the ward if you are staying or the day surgery recover area if you are leaving on the day. If you have had a special form of pain control (like an epidural) an anaesthetic doctor will visit you two to three times a day to ensure you are comfortable.

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When you go home

If you are leaving on the day of surgery you will be assessed in the day surgery unit to ensure you are safe to be at home. You will be given written instructions and probably pain killers to take home with you. You should have someone take you home and make sure someone will be at home with you that night to look after you. Take it easy on the day of surgery. You shouldn't drive or do anything strenuous for 48 hours after the operation, and longer if you have been advised according to what operation you have had done. Take the pain killers you have been prescribed when you need them. Do not put up with pain unnecessarily. You may need to pass by a pharmacy and get some Panadol or Panadeine (which is a stronger painkiller) if you are not given painkillers from the hospital. Go back to the hospital and seek help if you have pain you can't control, continued nausea, drowsiness or unexpected bleeding.

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More information
What if I need further information?

This site was not designed to give you all the answers. It may, in fact, have opened up new questions you hadn't thought of before. While the author would be happy to answer your questions the most appropriate person to ask is your anaesthetist, surgeon or hospital. If you have had an unusual anaesthetic experience or have a rare disorder or disease or a religious belief that you wish to discuss the first place you should contact is the anaesthetic department of your hospital. They should be able to organise someone to speak with you.

surgery image
During surgery (Click for larger image)

  Back to Top Site created by Con Kolivas Jan 2001

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