Find out about what happens on the day of surgery, including about having an anaesthetic.
Before the operation
The nurse will go through a series of questions on a checklist to make sure you are ready for surgery. They ask you to:
- tell them when you last had something to eat and drink
- change into a hospital gown
- put on a pair of surgical stockings
- take off any jewellery (except for a wedding ring)
- take off any make up, including nail varnish
- remove contact lenses if you have them
- put on 2 hospital identification bands usually on each wrist
If you have false teeth you can usually keep them in until you get to the anaesthetic room.
Your surgeon might use a marker pen to draw an outline on your skin to show the area of the operation. The marks may be on your breast and under your arm.
For some types of surgery, you need to shave the skin over the operation area. Or the nurse might shave it for you. They might do this when you’re under anaesthetic in the operating room.
Your nurse might give you a tablet or an injection to help you relax. This will be an hour or so before you go to the operating theatre. This makes your mouth feel dry but you can rinse your mouth with water to keep it moist.
If you've had medicine to help you relax your nurse and a porter take you to theatre on a trolley. You can walk down to the theatre if you haven't had any.
Having an anaesthetic
You have an anaesthetic so that you can’t feel anything during the operation. You have this in the anaesthetic room, next to the operating theatre.
All the doctors and nurses wear theatre gowns, hats and masks. This reduces your chance of getting an infection.
The anaesthetist puts a small tube into a vein in your arm (cannula). You have any fluids and medicines you need through the cannula including the general anaesthetic. This sends you into a deep sleep. When you wake up, the operation will be over.
Before you go to sleep your anaesthetist might put a small tube through the skin of your back. It goes into the fluid around your spinal cord. They can attach a pump to this tube to give you pain medicines during and after the operation.
Or the anaesthetist might inject an anaesthetic into the area of the surgery so that you don't have any pain there when you wake up.