Getting yourself healthy before surgery
Preoperative care - getting healthy
What to Tell Your Doctors Before Surgery
Tell the doctors who will be involved with your surgery about:
- Any reactions or allergies you have had to medicines, foods, skin tapes, adhesive, iodine or other skin cleansing solutions, or latex
- Your use of alcohol (drinking more than 1 or 2 drinks a day)
- Problems you had before with surgery or anesthesia
- Blood clots or bleeding problems you have had
- Recent dental problems, such as infections or dental surgery
- Your use of cigarettes or tobacco
If you get a cold, the flu, a fever, herpes breakout or another illness in the few days before surgery, call your surgeon right away. Your surgery may need to be rescheduled.
Before your surgery, you will need to have a physical exam.
- This may be done by your surgeon or your primary care doctor.
- You may need to visit a specialist who takes care of problems such as diabetes, lung disease, or heart disease.
- Try to have this checkup at least 2 or 3 weeks before your surgery. That way, your doctors can take care of any medical problems you might have well before your surgery.
Some hospitals will also have you visit with an anesthesia provider at the hospital or have a phone call from the anesthesia nurse before surgery.
- You will be asked many questions about your medical history.
- You may also have a chest x-ray, lab tests, or an electrocardiogram (ECG) ordered by the anesthesia provider, your surgeon, or your primary care provider before surgery.
Find out how you Should Manage Your Medicines
Bring a list of medicines you are taking with you every time you see a provider. This includes medicines you bought without a prescription and medicines you do not take every day. Include information on the dose and how often you take your medicines.
Also tell your providers about any vitamins, supplements, minerals, or natural medicines you are taking.
Two weeks before surgery, you may need to stop taking medicines that put you at risk of bleeding during surgery. Medicines include:
- NSAIDS such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve)
- Blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), dabigatran (Pradaxa), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), apixaban (Eliquis), clopidogrel (Plavix)
- Vitamin E
Ask your doctor which medicines you should still take on the day of your surgery.
Manage Your Medical Problems
If you have diabetes, heart disease, or other medical problems, your surgeon may have you see the doctors who treat you for these problems. Your risk for problems after surgery will be lower if your diabetes and other medical conditions are under control before surgery.
You may not be able to have dental work for 3 months after certain surgeries (joint replacement or heart valve surgery). So be sure to schedule your dental work before your surgery. Ask your surgeon about when to have dental work before the surgery.
If you smoke, you need to stop. Ask your provider for help. Smoking will slow your healing after surgery.
Tell all your providers that you are having surgery. They may suggest a change in your medicines before your operation.
Neumayer L, Ghalyaie N. Principles of preoperative and operative surgery. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 10.
Smith SF, Duell DJ, Martin BC, Aebersold M, Gonzalez L. Perioperative care. In: Smith SF, Duell DJ, Martin BC, Gonzalez L, Aebersold M, eds. Clinical Nursing Skills: Basic to Advanced Skills. 9th ed. New York, NY: Pearson; 2016:chap 26.
Last reviewed on: 9/28/2020
Reviewed by: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.