How to Prepare for Surgery

Patient with health care worker.

Preparing for your surgery can help you heal faster and reduce your risk of complications, and it’s important to know that preparation comes in two forms: physical and mental.

Cora Kite, a clinical nursing supervisor at MU Health Care, offers these tips to help you get ready for surgery and increase your chance of better outcomes.

Inform yourself. Meet your medical team, and ask questions about your procedure. Discuss any risks and possible complications that might arise. Bring a notebook and pen to write down important information and instructions. 

Prepare physically. Eating a balanced diet and exercising — even taking short walks — can have a big impact on the outcome of your surgery. If you smoke, try to quit. Also, avoid excessive alcohol intake, and drink plenty of water. 

Prepare emotionally. Going through surgery isn’t always easy. To help reduce stress, anxiety and pain, consider relaxation exercises such as mindful breathing, meditation or listening to music. If you are struggling, talk to someone. Your medical team is there to treat more than the physical aspect of surgery. 

Learn about anesthesia. Anesthesia comes in many forms — each with its own risks and after effects. Talk to your anesthesiologist to find out what type of anesthesia you will have and how it might affect you. 

Manage your medicine. Many surgeries require you to stop taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Before surgery, be sure your doctor knows exactly what medications and supplements you are taking, and ask if you need to make any changes. 

Prepare your home. Whether it’s stocking up on groceries or rearranging furniture so you can move around more easily, think about what you’ll need when you return from the hospital. Remove as much clutter from the floor as possible to reduce your risk of falling. 

Pack your bag. Hospital stays can become long and boring. After you’ve packed the basics, remember to bring some entertainment, such as your tablet, computer, a book
or games. 

Identify your support system. Family and friends are great sources of support during your recovery. They can help by providing meals, taking you to doctors’ appointments and being there for emotional support. Plan ahead to anticipate what kind of help you’ll need and when. And always be sure to let your caregivers know how much you appreciate them.

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