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Getting yourself healthy before surgery


Even if you've seen multiple doctors, you would know more about your symptoms and health history than anyone else. Your doctors and nurses depend on you to tell them things they need to know. Tell your doctors about:

  • Any reactions or allergies you've had to medicines, foods (such as shellfish), tapes, iodine, or latex
  • Your use of alcohol (drinking more than 1 or 2 drinks a day)
  • Problems you had before with surgery or anesthesia
  • Any history of blood clots or bleeding problems
  • Recent dental problems, such as infections or dental surgery

If you smoke, you need to stop. Ask your doctor or nurse for help. Smoking will slow down your healing after surgery.

Always let your doctor or nurse know about any illnesses you have before your surgery, such as a cold, the flu, a fever, or a herpes breakout.

You may not be able to have dental work for 3 months after certain surgeries (such as joint replacement or heart valve surgery). So be sure to schedule your dental work before your surgery.

Preoperative exam

Before your surgery, you will need to have a history and physical exam done.

  • This may be done by your surgeon or your primary care doctor.
  • You may need to visit a specialist who takes care of problems such as diabetes, lung disease, or heart disease.
  • Try to have this checkup at least 2 or 3 weeks before your surgery. That way, your doctors can take care of any medical problems you might have well in advance of your surgery.

Some hospitals will also have you visit with a nurse at the hospital before surgery.

  • You will be asked many questions about your medical history.
  • You may also have a chest x-ray, lab tests, or an EKG during this visit.

Find out how you should manage your medicines

Bring a list of medications you are taking with you every time you see a doctor or nurse. This includes medicines you bought without a prescription and medicines you do not take every day. Include information on the dose and how often you take your medicines.

Your doctors and nurses will need to know about any alternative treatments you've had. Tell them about any vitamins, supplements, minerals, or natural medicines you are taking, as well.

Two weeks before surgery, you may need to stop taking medicines that make it harder for your blood to clot. This includes aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), and other drugs.

Ask your doctor which medicines you should still take on the day of your surgery.

Manage your medical problems

If you have diabetes, heart disease, or any other medical problems, your surgeon will have you see the doctors who treat you for these problems. Your risk of problems after surgery will be lower if you have diabetes and other medical conditions under control before surgery.

Tell all your health care providers that you are having surgery. They may suggest a change in your medicines before your operation.

Review Date: 12/10/2012
Reviewed By: Robert A. Cowles, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Contact Us: 1-800-245-3314 or (501) 329-3831 2302 College Avenue, Conway, Arkansas 72034
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