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The Night Before And Day Of Surgery



The doctor or a member of his or her team will give you instructions about what to do, or more particularly, what not to do, the night before surgery. 

Typical instructions include the following. Your instructions may differ. 

  • Don't eat or drink anything after midnight.
  • Don't smoke after midnight.
  • Don't chew gum after midnight.
  • Don't take any medications except those specifically approved by the doctor.
  • Depending on the operation, you may be required to take an enema or laxative to clean out your bowels.
  • It is advisable to bathe or shower the night before your operation, or first thing in the morning.


Follow whatever instructions you are given by your doctor and/or health care center. These usually include the following:

  • Cleanliness
    • Clean yourself well, preferably with an anti-bacterial soap. 
    • You may be asked to clean yourself with a medical strength anti-bacterial.
  • Food and Drink
    • You will likely be asked not to eat or drink anything the day of surgery. 
    • Ask your doctor which of your medications it is okay to take and how much liquid you can take them with.
  • Jewelry and Other Valuables
    • Do not wear jewelry or take other valuables with you. 
    • If you do, give them to a trusted person prior to surgery.

Prior to surgery:

  • You will meet with the anesthesiologist, the doctor who will make sure you feel no pain during surgery, monitors your vital functions during surgery and who makes changes in the protocol if you have any reactions during surery. The anesthesiologist will describe the type of anesthesia he or she proposes to use during the operation. The anesthesiologist will also tell you what type of anesthesia will be used and what after effects to expect, if any. He or she will ask about the following. The answers help the anesthesiologist decide which anesthesia to administer and reactions to watch for. Questions include:
    • Previous reactions to anesthesia.
    • Allergies.
    • Medical conditions you have in addition to the one for which you are being operated on.
    • About your smoking habits.
    • Your average alcohol consumption.
    • Use of marijuana and other illegal drugs.
    • Medications you take (which is yet another reason to keep a  with you at all times. We have a form you can use to keep your List. Click here.)
  • You will be asked to sign a consent form if you haven't signed on already. Be sure to read every word of the form so you understand what it says before signing. If you have questions, ask. If you don't agree with something, cross it out and initial the change. For instance, if the form says the surgery may be performed by the doctor you chose or one of his or her associates. If you only want the doctor you approved to do the surgery, change the form.

As you are moved toward the operating room

You will likely be given a drug which will sedate you, but keep you conscious until the surgery starts. 

When you enter the operating room, you will likely be asked what procedure is to be performed and where (for instance, on the right arm). If you are not asked, ask the surgeon: "what is it you plan to do today?".  Be sure it is what you agreed to.  These questions may sound silly, but they help prevent errors. 

NOTE: For information about what to expect immediately after surgery, click here.

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