Surgical Instructions

An admitting representative and a pre-admission nurse will call you two to four days before your surgery.

  • The admitting representative will ask for your birth date, insurance numbers and other finance-related details.
  • The nurse will:
    • Give you information about what to expect.
    • Schedule or confirm any tests you need, unless the surgeon has already arranged tests.
    • Ask about your health history, medications, allergies and previous illnesses and surgeries.
    • Give you instructions, tell you about the admission process, and answer your questions.

Eating and drinking:

  • Unless you are told otherwise, you may eat normally and take your usual medicine the day and evening before surgery.
  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before or morning of your surgery. This helps reduce the chance of vomiting or inhaling items into your lungs during your surgery.
  • If you forget or do not follow these fasting guidelines, we may need to reschedule your surgery.

Medicines and supplements:

  • Follow your care team’s instructions about taking — or stopping — medicines or supplements before surgery.
  • You may swallow pills you need to take on the morning of surgery with small sips of water.


General Preparation:

Make sure your surgeon knows:

  • Any past surgery or major illness you have had
  • All other care providers you are seeing
  • All your medicines, including prescription medicines, aspirin and other over-the-counter medicines, herbal or homeopathic remedies and vitamins or supplements

To prepare your lungs for anesthesia and to decrease risks after surgery, we encourage you to stop smoking at least two weeks before surgery.

  • Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the UW Medical Center – Northwest campus.
  • If you would like help to quit smoking, ask the admitting nurse about resources.

When you speak with the admitting nurse before surgery, the nurse will tell you how to prepare at home, such as:

  • You may brush your teeth the day of the surgery, but do not swallow any water.
  • Do not chew gum or use breath mints or hard candy after midnight the night before your surgery.
  • You might have to change which medicines you take or don’t take on the day of surgery.
  • Follow the instructions from your care team about eating, drinking, taking medicines and smoking before surgery. If you do not, we may need to reschedule your surgery.

Your care team may give you more instructions about how to prepare.

  • If there are special instructions, ask your team to write them down for you.
  • Ask your team to clarify any aspect of your surgery or prep that you do not understand.

How to dress:

  • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Do not wear makeup, hair products, piercings, and do not use powders, lotions or creams on or near the surgical area.

What to bring:

  • A photo ID, your health insurance card, your pharmacy insurance card and any insurance forms you need
  • A list of your medicines and supplements, including doses
  • A copy of your healthcare directive or durable power of attorney for healthcare if you want these in your medical record
  • Personal items you will want if you will be staying overnight in the hospital, such as toiletries, small electrical appliances (like a shaver or hair dryer), dentures, eyeglasses with case, contact lenses with case, hearing aid and your own robe and sturdy slippers
  • Any items your care team prescribed or recommended based on the surgery you are having

Do not bring:

  • Valuables
  • Watches or jewelry other than rings
  • Money

Checking in for surgery:

Check in at least two hours before your scheduled surgery time. This will allow enough time for the admission process.

  • Check in at the admitting desk located just inside the north entrance to the hospital (toward the back of the campus near parking lot F).

After you check in:

  • A nurse will examine you, talk with you about your health and plan of care and answer your last-minute questions.
  • You will see your anesthesiologist. Tell them if you have had problems with any anesthetic in the past. They will explain the type recommended for you.

Family and friends:

  • Family and friends may stay in the reception room until you have changed clothes and then may stay with you until you leave for surgery.
  • During your surgery, they can wait in the surgical waiting room near the operating room.
  • We will give your family a pager if they want to leave the waiting room. It will work only on hospital grounds.
  • Your surgeon will look for your family and friends in the waiting room after your surgery is done.

You will stay in the recovery room for about an hour.

  • Nurses will closely monitor your recovery.
  • You may be aware of monitors or tubes such as an intravenous (IV) tube or oxygen or drainage tubes as you wake up.
  • You may also feel somewhat groggy, nauseated or dizzy.

For inpatient surgery, your family and friends may see you when you are out of recovery and have been moved to your new room, which will be in a different area of the hospital.

For outpatient surgery, a family member or friend can be with you in the recovery area after surgery.

Your nurses and doctors want to make your surgery and recovery as pain-free as they can. The key to getting the best pain relief is communicating with your care team.

  • Both medicines and other types of treatments can help prevent and control pain. You and your team will decide which ones are right for you.
  • Do not worry about getting “hooked” on pain medicines. Studies show that this is very rare and that you will stop taking pain medicines when you no longer have pain.

Your care team will help you with other aspects of your recovery from surgery, such as:

  • Eating and drinking again
  • Returning to normal activities as soon as you can
  • Taking care of your lungs to prevent potential complications from anesthesia and surgery

Going Home:

For inpatient surgery, the length of your hospital stay will depend on your type of surgery.

  • Your care team will plan your discharge with you.
  • You must have a responsible adult take you home. You cannot drive or take a taxi or bus home by yourself.
  • When you are ready to leave the hospital, you may need to get prescriptions. Make sure the person picking you up has a way to get and pay for your medicines on the way home.
  • You may need someone to help you at home for a while. We will help your family feel comfortable assisting you once you are home.
  • If you will need help at home other than from your family members, let your nurse know. Your care team can answer questions about home care support and help arrange assistance from community services.

For outpatient surgery, your departure time depends on the type of anesthetic and type of surgery you have and how your body reacts to both.

  • If you are not feeling well enough to go home, your physician may admit you to the hospital overnight.
  • You must have a responsible adult take you home. You cannot drive or take a taxi or bus home by yourself.
  • Arrange for someone to be with you the rest of the day (and to take care of anyone who is dependent on you). The length of time you will need help will vary.
  • You can speed up your return to your “normal” self by resting, following the activity restrictions that your care team gives you and taking your medicine as prescribed.
  • Your care team will give you instructions about how to care for yourself once you are home and who to call if you have problems.
  • A nurse will call you within 48 hours of your return home to check on your recovery.

Plan on having time to recover after surgery. During pre-surgery visits and calls, ask your team how long you will probably need before you can return to work and your other normal activities.

DO NOT do these things for 24 hours after you have anesthesia or take sleeping medicine:

  • Drive.
  • Drink alcohol.
  • Travel alone.
  • Cook.
  • Use machinery.
  • Sign any legal papers.
  • Be responsible for another person, such as a child.