Decorative image

Before your operation

Before surgery, you have tests to check your fitness and you meet members of your treatment team. You usually go into hospital on the morning of your operation.

The length of your hospital stay depends on what operation you have. You are usually in hospital for around 9 days after surgery to remove your stomach. 

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 have some or all of the following tests:

  • 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
  • a test to check your heart and lung function when you're resting and exercising (called a cardio pulmonary exercise test)

Pre assessment clinic

1 to 2 weeks before your surgery, you have an appointment at the hospital pre assessment clinic. This prepares you for your operation.

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

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
  • eating well before your surgery

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 dietician

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 anaesthetist

The anaesthetist gives you the anaesthetic and they look after you during the operation. The anaesthetic is the medicine that keeps you asleep during your operation. They make sure you’re fit enough for the surgery.

The physiotherapist

The physiotherapist teaches you exercises to help you recover from your operation. 

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.

The clinical nurse specialist (CNS)

Your clinical nurse specialist (CNS) is a qualified nurse who has specialist knowledge of cancers of the stomach. They help to organise care between doctors and the other health professionals you need to see. They also support you through your treatment, and make sure you have the information you need to understand your cancer and treatment.

Going into hospital

You might go into hospital the evening before or the morning of your surgery.

Your nurse might give you a carbohydrate-rich drink to have the evening before the operation. You might also have it the following morning. The drink gives you energy and can speed up your recovery.

Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to stop eating and drinking before your operation. 

The length of your hospital stay depends on what operation you have. You are usually in hospital for around 9 days after surgery to remove your stomach. 

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
  • sanitary wear or tampons
  • razor
  • 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

Family and friends

Your family or friends can go in with you to help you settle in. You’ll need to check the time of your operation and when the visiting times are.

The time it takes to do the operation depends on the type of surgery you have. Most operations take a few hours. The nurse will give you numbers for your family or friends to phone to find out how you are.

Before you go into hospital

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

  • work
  • care for children or other loved ones
  • care for your pets
  • care for your house
  • cancelling your milk or newspapers
Last reviewed: 
23 Aug 2019
  • Guidelines for the management of oesophageal and gastric cancer
    WH Allum and others
    Gut. 2011. Volume 60, Pages 1449-72

  • Enhanced Recovery
    NHS Choices, May 2016

  • National Oesophago-Gastric Cancer Audit 2019 
    The Royal College of Surgeons of England and others