Are you ready for surgery?

June 1, 2011 Kathy Witmer, DNP, ARNP

I am a nurse practitioner and one of my jobs is to help patients through their surgical experience with us. Here are some of the things you should know before surgery:


Surgery can be a very stressful event, and thinking about it may cause some anxiety. The best way to prepare for surgery is through education. Make sure that you have talked to all of your doctors so that you are making an informed decision about surgery. We will collaborate with your primary care physician and your cardiologist, but we encourage you to communicate with your entire medical team as well.


Learn about your surgery, what your hospital stay will be like, and what you can expect during recovery. The more relaxed and confident you are going into surgery, the better your chances of a successful and comfortable experience.


Eat a balanced diet. The food you eat can have a positive impact on wound healing and your recovery. Focus on whole foods and protein. Processed foods tend to have higher amounts of fat, sugar, salt and chemicals than whole foods. Shop along the outermost aisles of the grocery store where whole foods, like produce, are generally found. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of non-caffeinated beverages throughout the day. If you are prone to constipation, increasing natural laxatives in your diet before surgery can help minimize constipation that can occur after surgery.

Physical Activity

Maintain or increase your physical activity before surgery. If you are participating in an exercise or rehabilitation program, you should continue this until you arrive at the hospital for surgery. Daily activity will help condition your muscles and make it easier for you to move after your operation. Walking is generally an easy and effective way to maintain your physical conditioning.


Smoking irritates your lungs and may prolong your recovery. If you are a smoker, you will increase your lung function and efficiency each day that you are smoke free before surgery. A recent study demonstrated that longer periods of smoking cessation decrease the incidence of postoperative complications. We recommend that you stop smoking now or at least 4 weeks before surgery if possible.

Breathing Exercises

Breathing exercises are an important part of your recovery, especially after lung surgery. Deep breathing and coughing will help you clear secretions. These exercises can also help you relax before and after surgery.

Preparing Your Home

While preparing for surgery, you can also do some things to make your home more recovery-friendly. Consider a shower rail or a shower chair for bathing. You may also need a raised toilet seat if you have a low toilet in your home. Be sure to remove all stray cords and any loose carpet that may make it difficult to move around.

Returning Home

In planning your return home, make sensible social plans. Arrange for transportation home from the hospital. You may also need help with household chores like cooking or bathing for a short period of time. Make sure your family or friends are available to help you at home. If you live alone, we can help you make advance arrangements to have someone assist you. We can also arrange for you to stay at an extended care facility during your recovery.


Stay on your home medication schedule unless you are told otherwise by your surgeon or anesthesiologist. Any medications that may cause bleeding will be stopped before surgery. After surgery you will be re-started on your home medications and sent home with pain medications to help you remain comfortable and active during your recovery.

Relax & Sleep

As much as possible, try and relax for a few days before surgery. Spend time with your family and get a good night’s sleep.


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