Frequently Asked Questions

Preparing for Surgery

What is the difference between outpatient surgery and inpatient surgery?

Outpatient surgery, also called ambulatory or same–day surgery, does not require an overnight stay in the hospital, meaning that you can go home the same day if your condition is stable. You will need someone to drive you home. Outpatient surgery may be done in a hospital, health care provider’s office, surgical center, or clinic. Inpatient surgery takes place in a hospital and requires an overnight stay.

What health care professionals will be involved in my surgery?

Your health care provider leads a team of health care professionals who will work together to care for you before, during, and after your operation. Nurses will assist your doctor during surgery, perform special tasks, and help make you more comfortable. A resident or fellow may help during your surgery. The anesthesiologist is the person who is in charge of giving anesthesia and checking its effects.

What can I do to help ensure my surgery will go smoothly?

If you smoke, try to stop smoking before your operation. General anesthesia affects the normal function of your lungs. If you are taking medication, ask if you should keep taking it before or after the operation. Make sure your health care provider knows all of the medications you are taking, including those that have been prescribed for you and those that are bought over-the-counter, such as vitamins, herbs, or other supplements. Follow a special diet before surgery if your health care provider suggests it. If you have diabetes, controlling your glucose levels before surgery may improve healing.

What is involved in a presurgery checkup?

A week or two before your surgery, you may need to have a physical exam and tests, which may include lab tests of your blood and urine, a chest X-ray, and an electrocardiogram. An electrocardiogram is a test of heart function with an instrument that prints out the results as a graph.

What preparation may be necessary before surgery?

Depending on the type of surgery, your health care provider may want you to use a laxative and eat lightly. Do not drink alcohol 24 hours before surgery. You also may be asked to use an enema at home a day or two before some types of surgery.

What do I need to do the day of surgery?

Remove any nail polish or acrylic nails. Do not wear make up. All jewelry usually needs to be removed from your body before the operation. If you will be staying overnight, bring only those items you will need, including a case for glasses, contact lenses, or dentures.

You will be given an ID bracelet. It will include your name, birth date, and health care provider’s name.

Be prepared to go over your health history, as well as any drug allergies, or allergies to food or latex (some surgical gloves are made of latex). You will be asked what medications you are taking.

What preoperative preparation may occur?

You will change from your clothes into a hospital gown and maybe a cap. Steps may be taken to help prevent deep vein thrombosis. You may be given special stockings to wear, or inflatable devices may be put on your legs. You may be given drugs to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis. You will be taken to an area to wait until the surgical team is ready for you. Your health care provider or team will confirm your name, birth date, and type of surgery before you go to the operating room. If the operation is to be done on one side of your body, the site may be marked with a special pen. An anesthesiologist will discuss which type of anesthesia you will receive during the operation. A tube called an intravenous (IV) line may be placed into a vein in your arm or wrist. It is used for supplying your body with fluids, medication, or blood during and after the surgery. You may be given medication to help you relax. You also may be given other medications that your doctor has ordered, such as antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection.

What will happen once I am in the operating room?

After you have been taken into the operating room, you will be moved to the operating table. Monitors will be attached to various parts of your body to measure your pulse, oxygen level, and blood pressure.

The surgical team may again ask you your name, date of birth, and what operation you are having. A final review of medical records and tests may be done.

If you are having general anesthesia, it will be given through your IV line. After you are asleep, a tube called a catheter may be placed in your bladder to drain urine.

What should I expect when the operation is over?

Once the operation is over, you will be moved into the recovery area. This area is equipped to monitor patients after surgery. Many patients feel groggy, confused, and chilly when they wake up after an operation. You may have muscle aches or a sore throat shortly after surgery. These problems should not last long. You can ask for medicine to relieve them. You will

remain in the recovery room until you are stable.
As soon as possible, your nurses will have you move around as much as you can. You may be encouraged to get out

of bed and walk around soon after your operation. You may feel tired and weak at first. The sooner you resume activity, the sooner your body’s functions can get back to normal.

What things do I need to know before I go home?

Before you leave, a nurse or other health care provider will go over any instructions on diet, medicine, and care of your incision. You will be told what things or activities you should avoid and for how long. You should know who to call if you have a problem and what things you should call your health care provider about, such as a fever or increased vaginal bleeding.

How long will it take to recover?

If you have had major inpatient surgery, it will most likely take a month or more before you are ready to resume your normal schedule. Minor operations require less recovery time, but you may need to cut back on certain activities for a while.

Why should I quit smoking before I have surgery?

By quitting smoking, you will not only reduce the likelihood of experiencing surgery-related complications, but also improve your overall health and even add years to your life. The benefits of quitting smoking include:

  • Adding six to eight years to your life.
  • Reducing your risk of lung cancer and heart disease.
  • Saving an average of $1,400 each year.
  • Reducing your loved ones’ exposure to second-hand smoke.

Why is it especially important to the anesthesiologist that I quit smoking before my surgery?

Anesthesiologists are the heart and lung specialists in the operating room, and they are responsible for the total-body health of patients. Therefore, they directly witness the immense toll smoking takes on a person’s body and must manage smoking-related complications.

Anesthesiologists also witness the tremendous benefits patients experience as a result of not smoking before surgery, and are committed to helping all patients realize these advantages. It is important that your anesthesiologist knows about your smoking so he or she can take precautions to reduce your risk of having problems.

How long before my surgery should I quit smoking?

The earlier you quit, the greater your chances are of avoiding surgery-related complications. It is especially important not to smoke on the day of your surgery. Fortunately, the body begins to heal within hours of quitting. Twelve hours after a person quits, his or her heart and lungs already begin to function better as nicotine and carbon monoxide levels drop. It takes less than a day for blood flow to improve, which reduces the likelihood of post-operative complications. We recommend patients abstain from smoking for as long as possible before and after surgery, but even quitting for a brief period is still beneficial.

Is it worth quitting if I decide to do so right before surgery, such as the day before the procedure?  Could this have a negative impact on the outcome of my surgery?  

There is some misinformation with regard to deciding to quit smoking right before surgery. There is no data to support the contention that quitting too close to surgery may cause additional coughing that could impact a patient’s lung function. There also is no evidence of any other negative effects of quitting too close to surgery. If you decide to quit smoking the morning of surgery, it can still reduce the rate of surgical complications.

If my surgery is minimally invasive, do I still need to quit smoking?

Smoking will impact your body before and after surgery regardless of the type of procedure you have. We recommend that all surgical patients abstain from smoking for as long as possible before and after surgery.

Before surgery, should I also quit smoking additional substances such as marijuana?

It is critical that patients quit smoking all substances before surgery, including marijuana. They can have the same detrimental effects on surgery as nicotine. For example, they can make patients more or less susceptible to anesthetics. The carbon monoxide found in any kind of smoke affects blood pressure, making it more difficult for the blood to carry oxygen.

Please note: Do not be afraid to tell your anesthesiologist if you have been smoking or using other substances before surgery. This information will remain confidential and is important to your care.

Should I quit smoking permanently, or can I resume it after surgery? How long should I wait after surgery before smoking again?

Continuing to smoke after surgery greatly heightens a person’s risks of complications, such as infections in the surgical incision. In one study, more than half of patients who continued smoking after surgery developed complications, compared with less than 20 percent of those who quit. Fewer complications means less time in the hospital and a quicker recovery.

What risks will I face during surgery if I do not quit smoking?

Smokers require special consideration and treatment when undergoing surgery. The effects of smoking-related diseases increase both anesthetic risks, as well as risks of complications during surgery and recovery.

Conversely, anesthesia is safer and more predictable in nonsmokers due to better functioning of the heart, blood vessels, lungs and nervous systems.

Why is it so important to anesthesiologists that I quit smoking before my surgery?

Anesthesiologists are the heart and lung specialists in the operating room who are responsible for the total-body health of patients. Therefore, they directly witness the immense toll smoking takes on a person’s body and must manage smoking-related complications.

They also witness the tremendous benefits patients experience as a result of not smoking before surgery, and are committed to helping all patients realize these advantages.  It is important that your anesthesiologist knows about your smoking so that they can take precautions to reduce your risk of having problems.

What is the best way to quit smoking?

When confronted with surgery, many patients decide to take stock of their lives and change their behaviors. This defining moment is a great opportunity to commit to quitting, as it will have a significant impact on your quality of life for years to come.

Whether you are preparing for surgery or just thinking about quitting, free help is always available. By calling 1-800-QuitNow, you can connect with trained specialists who will provide advice along with a customized plan to help you quit.