Preparing for your Operation

This document is about what to expect in the run up to your operation. Please see the individual information sheets for your specific operation to find out more about the surgery itself. Also the information sheet ‘Having a General Anaesthetic’ gives further information about what to expect immediately after the operation has finished and prior to discharge.

Once a Decision has been made for Surgery…

Your surgeon will already have explained to you why you need to have the intended operation, and will have discussed briefly what is involved including the benefits to be had and also some of the risks that can occasionally occur. You may then be asked to attend a pre-admission clinic, where a health questionnaire will need to be filled in and some additional tests may be required depending on your overall level of health. You may also meet your anaesthetist at this stage although it is more usual to meet your anaesthetist on the day of surgery. More and more frequently the preadmission process is now being conducted via a telephone interview for patients who are otherwise fit and well with no significant medical problems.

You will be given or sent in the post some additional information about the operation. Please read this carefully as it should go some way to answering your questions although if you have any additional queries, do not hesitate to contact the hospital or your surgeon directly for further advice.

If you smoke, it is important to stop for at least 4 weeks before the operation. This will improve the functioning of your lungs and reduce the chance of developing breathing problems or a chest infection after the surgery. Smoking also affects wound healing, so by stopping you will improve the healing of your surgical wound and prevent infections.

On the day of surgery


You need to follow fasting instructions given to you by the hospital. If you are having a general anaesthetic, it is important to have an empty stomach at the time of the operation because vomiting whilst unconscious at the time of surgery can be dangerous as stomach contents may get into the lungs. In practice this usually means that you should not eat or drink for 6 hours before the operation, although sips of water are occasionally allowed by some anaesthetists up to 2 hours before your operation. This fasting is not usually necessary if you are having a local anaesthetic although you are advised not to eat a heavy meal within 2 hours of the procedure as this might make you feel sick at the time of the surgery.

Regular medications

Continue to take these as normal with a small sip of water, right up until your admission to hospital, unless directed otherwise by your surgeon or anaesthetist.


Have a bath or shower at home on the day of surgery. Remove any make-up and jewellery, and make sure that you cover up precious rings that you would rather not remove with sticky tape. Do not shave hair from the surgical site – this will be done at the time of the operation if it is required.

When you arrive at the hospital

You will be greeted by a member of the nursing staff on the ward who will check your details and will show you to your room. There will be a lock-up facility to store valuables whilst you are in theatre. Your blood pressure, heart rate and temperature will be taken and recorded. You may also be asked to wear compression stockings to help prevent a blood clot in your calf (deep vein thrombosis or DVT) although this is usually only necessary in longer operations or where there are specific risk factors. You will also be asked to change into a clean gown just before going for the surgery.

It will also be necessary to remove any contact lenses, glasses, dentures and hearing aids before going for the operation.

Seeing your anaesthetist

Your anaesthetist will visit you in your room and will enquire about your general health, what medications you are regularly taking and whether there has been any change in your health since your pre-admission visit. Most people are anxious before an operation. Pre-medication drugs may be offered to you – these can relieve anxiety and make you feel more relaxed. You should tell your anaesthetist about any dental caps, crowns, bridges or loose teeth as these can be vulnerable to damage during the process of putting a tube into your mouth to help you breathe in the operation.

Seeing your surgeon

You will have another opportunity to discuss the operation, benefits and risks with your surgeon before signing the consent form. This states that you understand the proposed procedure, reasons why you are having it, and possible side effects and complications that could occur. You will not be asked to sign until you are entirely happy and comfortable to proceed.

The anaesthetic room

Once these checks are complete, you will be taken to the anaesthetic room, which connects directly to the operating theatre. Here an assistant will help your anaesthetist prepare you for the operation and you will be put off to sleep. Please see information sheet on ‘Having a general anaesthetic’. If you are having a local anaesthetic, you will be taken directly into the operating theatre where the anaesthetic will usually be given.

The operating theatre and beyond

Once you are asleep, you will be transferred into the operating theatre where your surgeon will perform the surgery. When it is complete, you will be woken up and transferred to the recovery area. More details about this can be found in the information sheet ‘Having a General Anaesthetic’.

Going home

The precise instructions for what to expect after the surgery, including advice on what to do when you are discharged home varies from operation to operation. Please consult the relevant information sheet relating to the operation which you are about to undergo.

Consent issues

Please be reassured that you may change your mind about having the operation at any time, and signing a consent form does not mean that you have to have the operation. If you would like to have a second opinion about the treatment, you can ask your specialist. He or she will not mind arranging this for you. You may wish to ask your own GP to arrange a second opinion with another specialist.

You will only go through with the operation once both you and your specialist are happy that it is in your best interests.