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Preparing for surgery

Find out about what happens before surgery, the people you’ll meet and the exercises you need to do.

Tests to check you are fit for surgery

You have tests before your operation to check:

  • your fitness for a general anaesthetic
  • that you'll make a good recovery from surgery

Tests might include:

  • blood tests to check your general health and how well your kidneys and liver 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

Pre assessment clinic

About 1 or 2 weeks before your surgery you usually have an appointment at the hospital pre assessment clinic.

Your pre assessment appointment prepares you for your operation.

You see a nurse at this appointment. You might also meet other members of your treatment team so you can sign the consent form to agree to the operation.

Ask lots of questions. It helps to write down your questions beforehand to help you remember what you want to ask. Remember to take them with you. The more you know about what is going to happen, the less frightening it will seem.

You can ask more questions when you go into hospital so don’t worry if you forget to ask some.

The pre assessment nurse checks your:

  • general health
  • weight
  • blood pressure
  • pulse
  • temperature

They also check what help and support you have at home to fin dout what you will need when you go home after your operation.

You might also see your:

  • specialist nurse
  • surgeon
  • anaesthetist

Learning breathing and leg exercises

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.

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 evening before surgery

Your doctor or nurse may give you a carbohydrate rich drink to have the evening before or the morning of your operation. This gives you energy and can speed up your recovery. They will tell you what time you need to stop eating and drinking before your surgery.

Last reviewed: 
19 Sep 2017
  • The Royal Marsden Manual of Clinical Nursing Procedures, 9th edition
    L Dougherty and S Lister (Editors)
    Wiley-Blackwell, 2015

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