Preparing for surgery

Your pre assessment appointment prepares you for your operation. You’ll meet some of the members of your treatment team at this appointment. You usually have this appointment 1 or 2 weeks before your operation.

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 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 your lungs are healthy 

Pre assessment clinic

One or two weeks before your surgery you have an appointment at the hospital pre assessment clinic.

Your pre assessment appointment prepares you for your operation. You meet members of your treatment team at this appointment.

The doctor will tell you what to do on the day of your operation. This includes instructions about when to stop eating and drinking, and whether to stop taking any of your medicines. Do not stop taking your regular medicines unless the doctor tells you to.

Your doctor might invite you to join a clinical trial as part of your treatment.

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 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 are fit enough for surgery.

The clinical nurse specialist 

The nurse checks your:

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

The nurse also 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. 

These nurses also provide support and advice about having a stoma.

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.

Some people need a feeding tube in their stomach or small bowel. This makes sure you get the nutrition you need 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. 

Helping you recover

Your doctor and nurses might tell you about the enhanced recovery programme. This is a way of caring before, during and after your surgery to help you recover more quickly after a big operation. It includes advising you about:

  • being physically active
  • stopping smoking
  • drinking less alcohol
  • how to eat well before your surgery

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 blood clots forming in your legs. You might also have medicines to stop the blood from clotting. You have them as small injections under the skin.

You start the injections before your operation. You might also wear compression stockings and pumps on your calves or feet to help the circulation.

Your nurse and physiotherapist will get you up out of bed quite quickly after your surgery. This is to help prevent chest infections and blood clots forming.

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

Last reviewed: 
26 Oct 2018
  • Venous thromboembolism overview
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2015 

  • Consensus review of optimal perioperative care in colorectal surgery: Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) Group recommendations 
    K Lassen
    Archives of surgery, 2009. Volume 144, Pages 961-969 

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