Coming into hospital

Here are some things that you can do to prepare yourself for your operation.

What should I do before coming to hospital?

  • If you smoke, giving up for several weeks before the operation reduces the risk of breathing problems. It will also improve the post operative healing process and, due to this, for some surgeries giving up is compulsory. The longer you can give up beforehand, the better. If you cannot stop smoking completely, cutting down will help. Please ask if you need advice about this. Your GP or local pharmacy may also be able to offer help.
  • If you drink a lot of alcohol, cutting down before your operation will aid the anaesthetic and recovery post op.
  • If you are overweight, reducing your weight will reduce many of the risks of having an anaesthetic.
  • If you have loose teeth or crowns, treatment from your dentist may reduce the risk of damage to your teeth if the anaesthetist needs to put a tube in your throat to help you breathe.
  • If you have a long-standing medical problem such as diabetes, asthma, thyroid problems, epilepsy or high blood pressure (hypertension) your GP should give you a checkup.
  • If you feel unwell when you are due to come to hospital, please telephone the admissions and pre-assessment unit for advice.

What will happen to me when I come into hospital?

The preparation may vary depending on the operation. The following are general points which apply in most instances.

  • At your pre-assessment visit you will be given clear instructions about when you should stop eating and drinking before your operation.- it is important to follow these. If there is food or liquid in your stomach during your anaesthetic, it could come up to the back of your throat and damage your lungs therefore it is crucial that you follow your pre operative advice. For an early morning admission you must NOT have anything to eat after midnight the night before your operation. However we would encourage that you have a drink of water before 6 a.m. For a late morning admission you may have a light breakfast (such as toast or cereal) before 7 a.m. you may have a drink of water before 11 a.m.
  • If you are taking medicines you should continue to take them as usual unless your pre assessment nurse, 9 Your operation and anaesthetic anaesthetist or surgeon has asked you not to. For example, if you take drugs to stop you getting blood clots (anticoagulants), aspirin, drugs for diabetes or herbal remedies, you will need specific instructions which will be given to you at your pre assessment visit.

What should I do before my operation?

  • You will need to take a bath or shower to clean your skin and reduce the risk of infection. You will also be asked to remove all make-up and nail varnish. You will then be given a clean gown which ties at the back. If you wish to wear your underwear, tell the nurse. It must be cotton.
  • You will be asked to empty your bladder and bowels and may be given medicine to help with the latter at your pre assessment appointment. This needs to be taken the evening before your surgery, or you may be given suppositories or an enema. Your pre assessment nurse will explain this to you if this is the case.
  • For some surgeries you may be asked to have an injection the evening before your operation to stop blood clots. If this is the case your pre assessment nurse will explain this to you and teach you (or a friend or relative) to do the injection yourself, or arrange for you to either have the injection at your GP surgery or for you to attend The Royal Marsden the day before to have this done.
  • You may be asked to wear special support stockings to help keep your blood circulating and prevent a clot forming.
  • You must tie back long hair and may be asked to wear a paper hat. Do not use metal hairclips.
  • You must remove all jewellery except your marriage ring, which can be taped to your finger. We would recommend that you leave any valuables at home.
  • You must remove contact lenses but you can wear your glasses, hearing aids, dentures or a wig to go to the operating theatre.
  • You may be given a pre-medication (a ‘premed’). This is the name for drugs which are sometimes given before an anaesthetic, although today they are not often used. Some premeds prepare your body for the anaesthetic, others help you to relax. This may make you drowsy so you must not get out of bed after you have been given it, but call the nurses if you need anything. They may also make you drowsy after the operation, which can delay your discharge home. If you think a premed would help you, please ask your anaesthetist.

The nurses will explain each step before your operation. We will also try to respect any special requests or cultural needs. Please ask if you have any questions.

When will the operation take place?

On arrival you will be told approximately when you will be taken to the operation theatre. There may be a slight wait before your operation as the time can change if there is an emergency or a delay. The nurses will keep you informed.

How will I know what will happen after the operation?

The nurses in pre-assessment and the surgical team will explain what will happen afterwards; which of the common experiences apply and also anything which may be specific to you.

For some types of surgery you may spend some time in intensive care