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On the day

Find out what happens on the day of surgery, including about having an anaesthetic.

Before your operation you usually:

  • 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

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.

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.

Last reviewed: 
10 May 2018
  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures (9th Edition)
    L. Dougherty and S. Lister
    Wiley Blackwell, 2011

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