On the day

Your nurse will help to get you ready for surgery before you go to the operating theatre.

Getting ready

Before the operation you:

  • stop eating for about 6 hours beforehand, but you can usually drink clear fluids up to 2 hours before the operation – your doctor or nurse will give you exact instructions about this
  • change into a hospital gown
  • take off jewellery – you can usually keep your wedding ring on
  • take off any make up, including nail varnish
  • remove contact lenses if you have them
  • put on compression stockings (if you need them) – these help prevent blood clots

Your surgeon may use a marker pen to draw on your skin to show the area of the operation.


If you have hair on your neck, chest or face, you will need to have it shaved before your surgery. This reduces the risk of wound infection after the operation. You may have your shave on the ward or in the operating theatre while you are under anaesthetic.

Medicine to relax

Occasionally, your nurse might give you a tablet or an injection to help you relax. This will be about an hour 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.

False teeth

If you have false teeth you can usually keep them in until you get to the anaesthetic room.

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.

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