Going into hospital for mesothelioma surgery

You will probably go into hospital on the day of your operation.

Before you go into hospital

It’s worth sorting out a few things before you go into hospital. These might include:

  • taking time off work
  • care for children or other loved ones
  • care for your pets
  • care for your house
  • cancelling your milk or newspapers

What to take with you

Take in:

  • nightgowns or pyjamas
  • underwear
  • dressing gown
  • slippers
  • contact lenses, solution, glasses and a case
  • wash bag with soap, a flannel or sponge, toothbrush and toothpaste etc
  • sanitary wear or tampons
  • towel
  • small amount of money
  • medicines you normally take
  • magazines, books, playing cards
  • headphones and music to listen to
  • a tablet or smartphone for web browsing, entertainment and phone calls
  • chargers for electronic devices
  • a copy of your last clinic letter

Family and friends

Before you go into hospital, it might be worth checking:

  • whether the ward is allowing visitors
  • if they have set visiting times
  • the best number for friends and family to phone, to find out how you are

The letter you receive before your operation may contain this information. But if not, you can phone the ward or hospital reception to find out.

You can use your mobile phone in hospital. But there may be some time before and after your operation when you won’t have your mobile nearby. And you may not feel like talking.

Time in hospital

You are likely to be in hospital for between 7 to 15 days depending on the type of operation you have and your recovery.

On the day of your mesothelioma surgery

On the day of your operation you won't be able to eat or drink.

If you have them, you must take off your:

  • jewellery, except for a wedding ring
  • make up, including nail varnish
  • contact lenses
  • false teeth (you can take these off in the anaesthetic room)

You change into a hospital gown. Your nurse will help you to put on elastic stockings, called TED stockings. They help to stop you getting blood clots in your legs after surgery.

You might also have injections of heparin, tinzaparin, or dalteparin before the surgery and for 2 weeks afterwards. These drugs help to stop your blood from clotting. You usually have them as a small injection under the skin. 

About an hour before your operation is due to start, your nurse will give you a tablet or injection to help you relax. This is called pre-medication. It makes your mouth feel dry but you can rinse your mouth with water to keep it moist.

Your nurse and a porter take you to theatre on a trolley.

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.

When you wake up

When your operation is over you will be in a special recovery area for a short time. A nurse will look after you until you are fully awake and ready to be taken back to the ward. You will have to keep sitting up to help your breathing.

When you wake up, you will have several different tubes going into your body. This can be a bit frightening. But it helps to know what they are all for. You will have:

  • a drip (intravenous infusion) to give you fluids until you are drinking again
  • one or more tubes (drains) coming out from your wound

Your nurse can normally take out the drip and drains within 24 hours of the surgery.

The intensive care unit or the high dependency unit

After the recovery room, most people go back to the ward. But some might need go to the intensive care unit (ICU) or the high dependency unit (HDU). You then move back to the ward within a day or so. How long you stay in the ICU or HDU is different for everyone.

In the ICU or HDU, you have very close nursing care. This is usually one to one (or two to one) nursing care. The nurses and doctors keep a very close eye on your progress. These units are clinical, busy and often noisy places. Some people find them strange and disorienting.

  • Malignant pleural mesothelioma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up 
    S Popat and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2021. Volume 33, Issue 2, Pages 129-142

  • Guidelines of the European Respiratory Society and the European Society of Thoracic Surgeons for the management of malignant  pleural mesothelioma
    A Scherpereel and others
    European Respiratory Journal, 2010. 35 (3), Pages 479-495

  • Statement on malignant mesothelioma (MM) in the United Kingdom
    British Thoracic Society Standards of Care Committee, 2007

Last reviewed: 
13 Jan 2023
Next review due: 
13 Jan 2026

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