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Preparing for your operation

Find out about what happens before surgery, the people you’ll meet and the exercises you need to do.

Tests to check you are fit for surgery

You have tests before your operation to check:

  • your fitness for an anaesthetic, if you need one
  • that you’ll make a good recovery from surgery

You might not need all of these tests if you had them when you were diagnosed. Tests include:

  • blood tests to check your general health and how well your kidneys are working
  • an ECG to check that your heart is healthy
  • breathing tests (called lung function tests)
  • an echocardiogram (a painless test of your heart using sound waves)
  • a chest x-ray to check that your lungs are healthy

Pre assessment clinic

Your pre assessment appointment prepares you for your operation.

You meet members of your treatment team at this appointment and you can sign the consent form to agree to the operation.

Ask lots of questions. It helps to write down all your questions beforehand to take with you. The more you know about what is going to happen, the less frightening it will seem.

You can ask more questions when you go into hospital so don’t worry if you forget to ask some. At the hospital you might meet:

The surgeon

A member of the surgical team will tell you about:

  • the operation you are going to have
  • the benefits of having surgery
  • the possible risks
  • what to expect afterwards

The anaesthetist

The anaesthetist gives you the anaesthetic and looks after you during the operation. They make sure you’re fit enough for the surgery.

The nurse 

The nurse checks your:

  • general health
  • weight
  • blood pressure
  • pulse
  • temperature

The clinical nurse specialist

The nurse specialist checks what help and support you have to see what you will need when you go home. They are your point of contact and care for you throughout your treatment.

The dietitian

The dietitian gives you help and advice about managing your diet. They:

  • help you get as well as possible before your operation
  • explain how the surgery affects your diet
  • give useful tips on how to increase your nutrients and calories

They might give you nutritional supplement drinks to have before surgery.

The physiotherapist

The physiotherapist assesses how well you can move around. They let the doctors know if there is anything that could affect your recovery.

The physios also teach you leg and breathing exercises to do after your operation to help with recovery. Learning how to do the exercises beforehand makes it easier afterwards.

Learning breathing and leg exercises

Breathing exercises help to stop you from getting a chest infection. If you smoke, it helps if you can stop at least a few weeks before your operation.

Leg exercises help to stop clots forming in your legs. You might also have medicines to stop the blood from clotting. You have them as small injections just under the skin. They are heparin, tinzaparin or dalteparin.

You start the injections just before your operation. You might also wear compression stockings.

This 3-minute video shows you how to do the breathing and leg exercises.

The evening before

Your nurse might give you a carbohydrate rich drink to have the evening before the operation. You might also have it on the morning of surgery. The drink gives you energy and can speed up your recovery. Your nurse will check your blood pressure, pulse and breathing rate.

If you have recently been finding eating and drinking difficult, you may have fluids through a drip (intravenous infusion) into your arm before your surgery. This will prevent dehydration before your operation.

Last reviewed: 
20 Jan 2015
  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures (9th edition)
    L. Dougherty and S. Lister
    Wiley Blackwell, 2015

  • Biliary cancer: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up

    J Valle and others on behalf of the ESMO Guidelines Committee

    Annals of Oncology 27 (Supplement 5): v28–v37, 2016

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