Consumer/ Patient Information

Preparing for Surgery

Once you and your consultant decide that surgery is the best treatment option, you’ll need to understand what to expect from the surgery and create a treatment plan for the best results afterward. Preparing mentally and physically for surgery is an important step toward a successful result. Understanding the process and your role in it will help you recover more quickly and have fewer problems.

Working With Your Consultant

Before surgery, your consultant will give you a complete physical examination to make sure you don’t have any conditions that could interfere with the surgery or its outcome. Usually your treatment is verbally agreed between you and your consultant, however written consent is required for your operation and anaesthetic.  Before you sign the consent form it is important that you understand the risks and effects of the planned operation.  Talk to your consultant or the hospital staff if you are unsure about any aspect of your surgery.

Before Your Admission

Your general health will be assessed.  Routine tests, such as blood tests, urine tests and X-rays, are usually performed a week before any major surgery.

Discuss any medications you are taking with your consultant and/or anaesthetist.  Some medications and/or health supplements such as those that thin the blood may need to be stopped a few days prior to surgery.  Confirm this with your surgeon or anaesthetist.

For major surgeries such as joint replacement surgery you will have a pre-assessment appointment with a nurse and a physiotherapist usually  1 – 2 weeks before surgery – this may be co-ordinated with an anaesthetist pre-operative assessment if possible and will prepare you for your surgery and hospital stay and is an opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have.

Before Admission, What Can You Do To Help
  • Try to improve your general health before the operation.
  • Avoid chest infections (stay away from people with coughs and colds).  If you smoke give up at least two weeks before your operation date.
  • If you drink alcohol, cut down or stop before your surgery.  Alcohol can add to the risk of developing confusion following an anaesthetic.
  • Surgery may be cancelled if you have any source of infection such as ulcers, tooth problems, sore or open wounds.  Please see your GP or dentist if you have any of these.  Notify your consultant before admission if you have any concerns.
  • Regulate your weight.  If you are overweight it makes the surgery more difficult.  Recovery can be more difficult as well as you have more strain on your muscles and joints.  It can be hard to lose weight, especially if you have reduced mobility but exercise and changes to your diet can reduce your chances of complications after surgery.
Plan Your Discharge Home

Your length of stay in hospital will depend on the procedure you are having.  Your consultant will be able to confirm what the anticipated length of stay in hospital will be for the treatment being provided.

If you are having Day Surgery
  • Have someone available to take you home, you will not be able to drive for at least 24 hours.
  • Do not drink or eat anything in the car on the trip home.
  • The combination of anaesthesia, food, and car motion can quite often cause nausea or vomiting. After arriving home, wait until you are hungry before trying to eat. Begin with a light meal and try to avoid greasy food for the first 24 hours.
  • If you had surgery on an extremity (leg, knee, hand or elbow), keep that extremity elevated and use ice as directed. This will help decrease swelling and pain.
  • Take your pain medicine as directed. Begin the pain medicine as you start getting uncomfortable, but before you are in severe pain. If you wait to take your pain medication until the pain is severe, you will have more difficulty controlling the pain.
If you are having a Hospital Stay and/or Major Surgery
  • Some procedures will require special equipment to be ordered while you recover.  Your physiotherapist will determine what is needed either at your pre-assessment appointment or during your hospital stay.
  • Organise your home – ensure your bathroom is safe, remove rugs or electrical cords that could cause tripping hazards.  Review the access and entrance ways you have and arrange things that you frequently use so they are within easy reach.  Consider making and freezing meals prior to coming to hospital.
  • If you live alone you may need to organise a family member or friend to stay with you to provide extra support and assistance.  This should be arranged prior to your admission.
  • Organise transport home from hospital, and depending on the type of surgery you have had, you may need to organise a drive or alternative transport for the duration of your recovery.