On the day of surgery

On the day of your surgery, there are things you need to do before you go to the theatre for your operation.

Before your operation

Your 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
  • change into a hospital gown
  • 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 a pair of surgical stockings
  • 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.

You stop eating for about 6 hours before your operation if you are going to have a general anaesthetic. You can still drink clear fluids up to 2 hours beforehand.

You might have a drip (intravenous infusion) put into your arm before your surgery so that you can have fluids. This makes sure you are not dehydrated before your operation.

Your nurse may ask you to have suppositories or an enema to clear out your bowel. This will help you avoid being constipated after your operation.

The nurses can arrange for a member of the surgical team to come and talk to you if you still have any questions about your operation. You'll sign a consent form if you didn't do this at the pre assessment clinic

Shaving before surgery

Your pubic hair may need to be shaved before your operation. You may be able to do this yourself on the ward, or your nurse may do it in the operating theatre while you are under anaesthetic.

Medicine to relax

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

The type of anaesthetic you have will depend on the operation you are going to have.

For example, you might have a local anaesthetic for some treatments for vaginal intraepithelial neoplasia (VAIN). You stay awake, but you have local anaesthetic to numb the area.

You might have a spinal anaesthetic or a general anaesthetic if you have a wide local excision.

During a spinal anaesthetic a local anaesthetic is injected into a small tube in the space around your spine (in your lower back). This makes you numb from the waist down and means you cannot feel the operation being done.

You have a general anaesthetic for bigger operations like a hysterectomy or pelvic exenteration. 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.

As well as a general anaesthetic, you might also have anaesthetic into the space around your spine. This is attached to a pump to give you pain medicines during and after the operation.

All the doctors and nurses wear theatre gowns, hats and masks. This reduces your chance of getting an infection

Last reviewed: 
13 Apr 2021
Next review due: 
13 Apr 2024
  • The Royal Marsden Hospital Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures (10th Edition) 
    S Lister, J Hofland and H Grafton
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2020

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