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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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 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 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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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.