The night and morning before surgery

Food and liquid directions before surgery

The following are based on your arrival time to the hospital, not your scheduled surgery time.

Smoking, vaping or chewing tobacco: 24 hours

Do not smoke, vape, use chewing tobacco or any other tobacco products up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival time. This will reduce the risk of complications (problems).

If you do use tobacco products within 8 hours of your scheduled arrival time, your surgery may be delayed or canceled.

Alcohol: 24 hours

Do not drink alcohol up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival time.

Solid food: 8 hours

You may eat your regular foods up to 8 hours before your scheduled arrival time.

Baby formula: 6 hours

Babies may have formula up to 6 hours before the scheduled arrival time.

Solid food: 6 hours

You may eat a light meal up to 6 hours before your scheduled arrival time. A light meal is:

one of these:

  • 2 pieces of toast with a light topping (Do not eat peanut butter or other nut butters.)
  • 1 granola or protein bar
  • 1 cup (8 oz.) oatmeal or other hot cereal 

and one of these:

  • 16 ounces of milk
  • coffee (with or without cream)
  • juice (with or without pulp)
  • or a sports drink

Breastmilk: 4 hours

Breastfeeding babies may have breastmilk up to 4 hours before the scheduled arrival time.

Clear liquids: 2 hours

Drink clear liquids up to 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time. Clear liquids are only these: o water o fruit juice without pulp o sports drinks o soda o black coffee without cream or creamer o tea without cream or creamer.

Drink 12 to 20 ounces of electrolyte sports drink (Gatorade® or Powerade®) 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time.

Hard candy and gum: 2 hours

You may have hard candy (such as a lemon drop or throat lozenge) or chew gum up to 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time.

You may use gums and lozenges for tobacco cravings up to 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time.

Additional instructions

 Do not shave the surgery site.

 Follow your doctor’s directions for taking medicine. He or she will tell you if you should take any or all of your regular medicines.

Follow any specific instructions given by your doctor. (For instance, cleansing your skin with a special soap.)

Bring a list of your medicines with you to the hospital. Include prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins and herbals. Include the name of the medicine, how much you take, and the last time you took the medicine.

Please leave money, credit cards and other valuables at home.

If you wear glasses, contact lenses, dentures or hearing aids, bring containers for them during surgery.

Remove all jewelry (including rings) and body piercings. Please leave the items at home or with a family member at the hospital.

Do not wear make-up, deodorant, perfume, cologne or aftershave.

Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing.

Bring any forms given to you by your doctor. If your surgery requires a physical exam, please bring these completed forms with you.

Bring your insurance card.

Bring your health care directive.

Bring personal care items such as deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, slippers and comb if you are staying at the hospital.

Bring any special medicines (including eyedrops and inhaler) or equipment (such as CPAP machine, crutches, cane or splint).

Bring books or magazines.

Please arrive at the hospital as directed before your surgery. It is common to be told to arrive two hours before your scheduled surgery time. If you have trouble walking or moving, allow extra time.

Related resources

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Surgery: What You Need to Know, surg-ah-21686
First Published: 01/15/2011
Last Reviewed: 06/15/2015