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Getting yourself healthy before surgery

Even if you have been to many doctors, you know more about your symptoms and health history than anyone else. Your health care providers depend on you to tell them things they need to know.

Being healthy for surgery helps make sure the operation and your recovery go smoothly. Below are tips and reminders.

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, iodine, 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.

Preoperative Exam

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 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) during this visit.

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 make put you at risk of bleeding during surgery. Medicines includes aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), and other drugs.

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 will 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.

If you smoke, you need to stop. Ask your provider for help. Smoking will slow down your healing after surgery.

Tell all your providers that you are having surgery. They may suggest a change in your medicines before your operation.

Alternative Names

Preoperative care - getting healthy

References

Neumayer L, Ghalyaie N. Principles of preoperative and operative surgery. In: Townsend CM, 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, Aebersold M, Gonzalez L, eds. Clinical Nursing Skills: Basic to Advanced Skills. 9th ed. New York, NY: Pearson; 2016:chap 26.

Review Date 9/17/2016

Updated 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, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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