Preoperative Procedures – Information

Preoperative Procedures – The events that take place to prepare a person for a surgical operation.

Preoperative procedures for elective (nonemergency) operations may begin several days to a week before the scheduled surgery with activities such as

  • Preoperative consultation with the surgeon or a member of the surgeon’s staff to discuss the preparations for surgery, including any revisions to routine medications, dietary restrictions, laxatives or enema, or skin-cleansing procedures as well as expectations for the operation’s outcome and the anticipated recovery period
  • Signing of informed consent documents that specify, in detail, the planned operation and the reasons for it, the scope of surgery the surgeon may perform, and the operation’s possible complications and risks
  • Routine blood tests to assess blood cell counts, hemoglobin level, coagulation (clotting) times, liver function, and kidney function
  • Possible chest x-ray, electrocardiogram (ecg), and other diagnostic testing, depending on the operation and the person’s health status and age
  • Consultation with the anesthesiologist or anesthetist to determine the optimal anesthesia choices for the person’s health status and the planned operation
  • Health insurance preauthorization or financial arrangements

The doctor will provide instructions about not eating for a specified period of time before the scheduled operation, and about taking any daily medications on the day of the operation.

Before signing informed consent documents, it is crucial to fully understand the scope of the planned operation, the expected benefits of the operation, the anticipated course of recovery, and possible complications and risks of the operation and of the anesthesia.

Most people arrive at the ambulatory surgery facility or hospital surgery unit several hours before the scheduled time of the operation. In preparation for the operation, a person undresses and puts on a surgical gown. The preoperative nurse starts an intravenous (IV) infusion to maintain hydration and to administer medications.

Surgical staff may apply electrodes to the chest to monitor heart rate, place a blood pressure cuff around the arm to monitor blood pressure, and place a pulse oximeter over the tip a finger to monitor blood oxygenation. Some surgical facilities allow a family member or close friend to be present during these early preparations.

The surgeon or assistant surgeon often visits the person before sedation or anesthesia begins to confirm the person’s identity, the planned operation, and the location of the operative site (such as left leg or right breast).

Other staff may also make these same confirmations to prevent errors. Many surgeons use a marking pen on the skin to identify the operative site. As the time for the operation to begin draws near, most people receive a sedative for relaxation and comfort.


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