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Surgery: What You Need to Know Online Manual

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What to expect at the hospital

What happens before surgery

Many patients go through the same steps and procedures when preparing for surgery. The following is basic information for all surgery patients. Your nurse will go over this and give you helpful hints.

How quickly things happen depends on the amount of time between your decision to have surgery and when your health care provider can schedule time in the operating room. You can expect the following to happen before surgery:

  • A nurse will meet with you to complete your care plan and review what you can expect before and after your surgery. The nurse will review your health history. You will be asked questions about any allergies you have and medicines you are taking.
  • You will be asked to sign a consent form, if you haven't already done so.
  • If you have questions or concerns, please ask a member of your health care team.
  • You will change your clothes and wear a hospital gown. You will also receive a hospital identification bracelet.
  • You may have blood taken for any needed lab tests before your surgery.
  • You may have special tests (such as X-rays or an ultrasound) done. For these, you may be taken to other departments in the hospital.
  • The nurse will check your blood pressure, pulse and temperature.
  • You will have an IV (intravenous) line started in your arm if sedation or general anesthesia is needed. You may also receive an antibiotic to prevent infection.
  • When you go into surgery, your family will be taken to the surgery waiting room. The surgeon will talk with your family when your surgery is done.

Your family and/or friends will be told when you are taken into the operating room. It is possible for the time of your surgery to change and your family and/or friends may need to wait longer in the waiting room.

If your family and/or friends have questions about the longer wait time, surgery staff will be available to answer any questions.

How you may feel emotionally

You may feel concerned, anxious, scared, nervous or stressed about your surgery. It is common to have one or more of these reactions no matter what type of surgery you are having. You may:

  • have trouble concentrating on other things or conversations
  • have trouble falling or staying asleep
  • count the days or hours before surgery
  • question your decision to have surgery
  • become irritable or withdrawn.

What you can do while you wait for surgery

All of these reactions are normal and get better when surgery is done. To help you through this time, you may:

  • talk to family, friends, your nurse, a chaplain or your health care provider
  • walk in the halls
  • practice deep breathing
  • ask questions and learn what to expect before, during and after surgery. You may have some concerns about when you return home.
  • make plans for returning home (who will help you with cooking, laundry, cleaning and driving while you recover?)
  • meditate and/or pray.

What happens after surgery

After surgery, you will spend about one to two hours in a recovery room where nurses will watch you closely. Your family and/or friends will be told when you are taken into the recovery room.

From the recovery room, you will be taken back to your room. Your family can join you in your room.

Your health care provider will talk with you and your family and/or friends after the surgery.


Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Surgery: What You Need to Know, surg-ahc-21686; Preparing for Surgery (While You Are in the Hospital), surg-ahc-11105

First published: 01/15/2011
Last updated: 01/15/2011

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts