Surgery. It’s a word that sparks abject fear and worry for some, and a need for distance and distraction for others. I tend to fall into the latter category. Regardless of you deal with the run-up to an operation, it can help to feel a little more prepared.
Having recently had my pre-op for surgery no.5, I wanted to share some thoughts on what to expect and a few tips to ensure the assessment is as stress-free and successful as possible.
What to expect…
All hospitals will vary in how they run a pre-op assessment and exactly what happens will depend in part on your physical health and the procedure that’s planned. However, most will follow a similar pattern.
You will be invited to a hospital (usually, but not always, the one where your surgery will be) for an assessment of your health to ensure you are suitable for surgery, and to flag up any possible issues that could be encountered with the procedure or anaesthetic. It’s also a chance for you to air any concerns about your health and the operation and to ask questions.
Pre-op assessments are usually divided into sections, for which you will likely see different staff members. Depending on delays and speed of the staff, you could expect the pre-op to last between 1-2 hours.
There will be a check of the basics, usually by the first nurse you see. Blood pressure, height and weight for BMI, collecting any urine samples you’ve been as to bring or to provide while you’re there, MRSA swabs (a cotton bud on the knicker line and another up your nose for good luck), and blood tests. The latter are fairly routine to check for anything out of the ordinary or any deficiencies.
You may be seated again to wait for someone else for an electrocardiogram (EKG). This is painless and usually completed within 10 minutes. Sticky pads with wires will be placed on key areas, such as across the chest, then the machine will be switched on to print off the heart reading. They will be able to tell you whether there are any noticeable issues, such as a murmur, immediately afterward this is done.
Then there will be a full assessment, where a nurse will ask a bunch of thorough questions from a booklet and make notations. You will be asked numerous questions regarding the likes of previous medical history, current health issues, next of kin details, current medications, and whether you have suitable arrangements for transport to/from the hospital for surgery.
To feel more prepared and confident, as well as to ensure the pre-op goes quickly and smoothly, try out these tips.
- Bring a written list of your current medications and supplements, including anything you get on prescription and over the counter. Make a note of the dosage. The nurse should tell you whether it is safe to continue taking all of them up until the day before your surgery as some medications, such as iron supplements, may need to be stopped in advance. If this isn’t advised, ask the question of whether you can continue your current medications just to make sure.
- Arrive early if you’re driving to ensure you find a space in good time. Anticipate the time you’ll be parked so that you’re not worrying you’ll run out of time and feel rushed if you’re using a pay and display carpark, or consider whether public transport is an option.
- Come with a list of any questions you have about the surgery, the hospital, the stay or the pre-op beforehand. Some questions may be more pertinent for your surgery to answer, and it’s common to come away from surgical consultants feeling rushed or caught off guard and not asking what we’d intended. If the nurse at pre-op can’t help, you should be able to speak to the surgeon on the day or you can get in touch with his/her secretary to try to get a response before then.
- List your previous surgeries, current conditions and any upcoming investigations.
- If you’re experiencing any unresolved or new problems, book in to see your GP asap.
- Consider how you’ll get to and from the hospital for your surgery as this will likely be asked. Also make a note of next of kin contact details.
- Wear clothing that allows for easy access to your arm for blood pressure and a blood test.
- Hydrate with enough water before you go and take some with you, especially if you have encountered problems with blood tests previously (this should help bring the veins out a little better).
- This one sounds too obvious but you’d be surprised how easy it is to not fully read any instructions on your pre-op invitation letter if you receive one (I say this as I’ve done it myself!) Some letters may include instructions or make requests, such as taking a urine sample with you. You can pick up a specimen container from your local pharmacy (Boots sell them for 50p). They may also take a form for you to complete and bring with you. If there’s anything you’re unsure of in the letter give the hospital a call before attending.
- Know where you’re going. Most hospitals will have a map showing department locations online. This will save any last minute stress of getting lost and trying to figure out where you’re meant to be.
- Remember – This is just to asses the basics and gather important information that will be useful for you, the surgeon and the anaesthetist. You are an active participant in the proceedings so speak up if you’re uncomfortable, air any concerns and ask any questions you may have.
If you’re due a pre-op assessment, I wish you all the very best with it and your surgery. Please feel free to contact me on my blog or via email, or on the Facebook page.