What to expect the day of your surgery

In the Pre-Anesthesia Unit

In the Operating Room

In the Recovery Room or Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU)

If you are going to be going home that day

If you will be admitted to the hospital after surgery

What to Expect in the Pre-Anesthesia Unit

What can I expect during the few hours before my surgery?
On the day of surgery, you will be asked to come to the hospital several hours before your procedure is scheduled to begin. This time is determined by the surgeon’s office and allows time to complete any tests or other items that need to be finished before your surgery. You will be asked a lot of questions in the time leading up to your surgery and some will seem repetitive, but this allows us to make sure we have current and correct information.

You will then be taken to a pre-operative holding area called the Pre-Anesthesia Unit where you will be taken to a private room and asked to remove your jewelry and clothing and be given a hospital gown. The staff will put your belongings in a secure place, or you may choose to give these items to a family member or friend. We ask that any valuables remain with a family member.

If you are here for an outpatient procedure, we will verify you have a ride home following your surgery. For your safety, we will have to reschedule your surgery if you do not have a ride home. Your Pre-Anesthesia nurse will then begin to prepare you for your surgery.

The nurse may have you sign some important paperwork. He or she will take your temperature, blood pressure and pulse, do a nursing assessment, review your medications and answer any questions you may have. An intravenous (IV) line will be placed in a vein in either your hand or arm. The purpose of the IV is to provide fluids and medications during the surgery.

You must remove all hairpins, dentures, hearing aids, piercings, contact lenses and glasses unless you are told by the staff you can keep those items.

Will I be able to talk to my anesthesiologist before surgery?
Yes. You will meet your anesthesia provider, and other members of the team, before you go into the operating room. The anesthesia provider will examine you, review your medical and anesthesia history and the results of any tests you may have had done. They will explain the type of anesthesia you will be receiving and answer any further questions you may have.

Depending on your health, the type of surgery and your personal wishes, the anesthesia provider and your surgeon will determine the type of anesthetic best for you.

Will I be asleep for my procedure?
There are several different types of anesthesia techniques available.

General Anesthesia: Medication that is injected in your IV. You also may be given a mixture of gases with oxygen to breathe. You will not be aware of anything occurring in the operating room. A breathing tube will be placed into your windpipe to help you breathe during your surgery. If you have this type of anesthesia, you may have some soreness in your throat after surgery.

Regional or Spinal Anesthesia: This is an injection that creates numbness around the area where you are having surgery. Epidural or spinal blocks help numb the abdomen and legs at the same time. Other types of nerve blocks may be done to numb the arms or legs. With regional or spinal anesthesia, you should feel no pain. You may be awake or be given IV sedation to maintain your comfort level.

Local Anesthesia: Medicine is injected around the incision site creating a feeling of numbness. You will feel numb only in the area of the surgery. You may be given other medication to help you relax, but you will be awake during the procedure. The surgeon often administers this type of anesthetic because it is used on smaller areas of the body.

Monitored Anesthesia Care: Uses both local anesthetic at the incision site and medicine injected into your IV. This type of anesthetic does not require a breathing tube. You will be awake after surgery is completed.

Will I get to speak with my surgeon?
Your surgeon, or a member of his or her team, will normally visit you before starting the surgery to ask if you have any questions. They will use a special pen to mark the correct surgical site on your body if appropriate.

How does the staff keep me safe?
The Pre-Anesthesia and operating room nurse(s) will verify the following before taking you to the operating room:
  • Your name and date of birth
  • Allergies
  • Name of your surgeon
  • What type of surgery you are having
  • Where you are having your surgery
  • Time you last ate
  • Whether you have any metal in your body, such as plates, piercings, screws, etc.
All surgical team members will be made aware of this information, as well as your clinical status, current condition and recent treatments. This communication helps ensure a strong link between your care and your safety.

After I am checked in, how long will I wait for surgery?
It is always our goal to start your procedure on time. However, delays may occur for a variety of reasons. The most common reason for delay is when another patient needs an unplanned emergency surgery. Occasionally, a delay may occur when a patient scheduled before you has a procedure that lasts a little longer than planned. We know this can be frustrating, but please know our surgeons and staff are committed to providing all patients with the very best care possible.

Your patience and understanding is greatly appreciated. If your procedure is delayed, please do not hesitate to ask for reading materials or for assistance with the television.

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What to Expect in the Operating Room

The operating room is a busy area with bright lights where everyone is dressed the same way. When it is time for surgery to begin, you will be taken to the operating room on a stretcher. The operating room is extremely clean. We call it “sterile.” The operating room team members will put masks on their faces as they enter the room to keep it free of germs and to ensure your safety.

The room is cool. We will provide warm blankets for you once you are moved to the operating table.

Will I remain on the stretcher for surgery?
No. The nurse will help you move onto the operating table, which will feel hard and sometimes cold. Since the operating room table is narrow, a safety strap will be placed across your lap, thighs or legs. Your arms are placed and secured on padded arm boards to help keep them from falling off the table.

What questions will they ask me?
The same questions asked of you while you were prepared for your surgery will be asked once more for your safety. These questions include such things as your name, whether you have any allergies, when you last had something to eat or drink, what type of procedure you are planning on having and the name of your surgeon.

What will the anesthesiologist do?
A nurse anesthetist or the anesthesiologist will attach a blood pressure cuff, ECG leads (sticky pads with little “nubs” on the end that will be used to monitor your heart during surgery) and a pulse oximeter (a plastic clip attached to your fingertip and used to measure the amount of oxygen in your blood during surgery.) If you are receiving a general anesthetic, you may be given a mask and asked to breathe deeply.

The nurse anesthetist or anesthesiologist may inject anesthetic into your IV to relax you and make you comfortable. Some patients report the medication burns slightly or feels “tight” at the site of your IV. If you are receiving a spinal anesthetic, you will be assisted into a position at the anesthesiologist’s request. At this time, the area will be prepped and the anesthesia delivered.

What is a “time out”?
A pause, or “time out,” will take place just before the start of your surgery. This is the final step in which everyone agrees they have the correct patient, procedure, site, side, position and equipment.

How long will I be in surgery?
The amount of time in the operating room will depend on the type of surgery you are having. The surgeon can give an estimated time before you are taken back to the operating room. However, please know the estimated time may not include the 30-minute preparation time in the operating room before the surgeon begins and the 30-minute time to prepare for movement to the recovery room.

The whole team will be in the operating room to help your surgeon provide you with the best care and make sure you are safe and comfortable during your surgery.

Will my family receive updates while I am in the operating room?
While you are in surgery, your family may receive updates on the amount of time left and the progress of your surgery. Once your surgery is complete, the surgeon will talk with your family to discuss results. You may remain in the operating room for an additional amount of time, typically 30 - 60 minutes, until the anesthesia team feels you are ready to go to the recovery room. You will then be transported by the surgical and anesthesia teams to the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU), also known as the Recovery Room.

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What to Expect in the Recovery Room or Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU)

Where will I go after surgery?
Right after surgery, you will be taken to the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) or, in some cases, directly to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where nurses will take care of you and watch you closely. A nurse will check your temperature, blood pressure and pulse often, look at your bandages, regulate your IV and give you pain medication as needed.

The average PACU stay is two to three hours.

What do I need to tell the PACU/Recovery nurse?
Please tell the nurse if you are having pain. The nurse will ask you to give your pain a number on a scale of zero to 10 (zero meaning you have no pain, and 10 means you have the worst pain). The nurse will check your pain and continue to help you manage it until you are as comfortable as possible.

What can I do about nausea (feeling sick to my stomach)?
Some patients feel very sick to their stomach (nauseous) after surgery. It is important to tell your nurse about this right away so it can be treated with medication. If you have had problems with nausea in the past, the anesthesia care provider should know this before surgery.

What other feelings may I experience after surgery?
You may feel sleepy, dizzy and/or forgetful from the medication given to you during surgery.

When will I see my family after surgery?
You will be able to see your family once you are moved from the PACU to the discharge area or to your room if you are staying overnight. In the PACU, the support person or visitor is usually not allowed to visit adult patients because of the critical level of care provided and the need to protect the privacy of all of our patients.

In instances when the patient is critically ill, or if the patient must be cared for in the PACU for an extended period of time awaiting a hospital room assignment, a brief visitation with the family member may be possible. This will be arranged as long as the visitor’s presence does not compromise the confidentiality of other patient care and information.

Parents may come into the PACU to stay with the child in our special pediatric area. You will be notified by the PACU nurse when you are able to come into the pediatric recovery area to be with your child.

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What to Expect if you are Going Home on the Day of Surgery

Once your surgery is over and you have been moved from PACU, you will either be sent to a hospital bed or taken to the area where the nurses will get you ready to go home.

What do I need to know before going home?
Before leaving the hospital, you must meet certain discharge criteria. You may be asked to urinate before going home after certain surgical procedures. If you had a spinal anesthetic, you may be sent home with special instructions about what you should do if you cannot urinate within a certain time period. Your nurse will go over your post-operative/after surgery instructions with you and your family/friend.

The goal is to teach you several things about going home. These things include:
  • Activity restrictions
  • Pain medicines
  • Special diet plans
  • Special instructions related to your surgery
  • Follow up with your surgeon
  • Signs to watch for infection
  • When you should follow up with your surgeon
If you have stopped taking medications before your surgery, your nurse or doctor will let you know when you can start taking them again. You may also be given a prescription from your doctor at this time.

How long will it take me to feel normal again?
It may take some time. Plan to take it easy for a few days until you feel back to normal. Patients often feel minor effects after surgery because of anesthesia. They include:
  • Being very tired
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
Sometimes patients can feel very sick to their stomach and may throw up. These side effects usually go away in the first few hours after surgery, but it can take several days before they are completely gone. Most patients do not feel up to their normal activities for several days.

Can I drive myself home?
No. Patients who have outpatient/same day surgery must have someone drive them home and stay with them for 6-8 hours following their surgery. The medications you were given during your surgery may affect your memory and mental judgment for the next 24 hours. During that time frame, do not use alcoholic beverages and tobacco products.

It is also advised not to make any important business or personal decisions and to not use machinery or electrical equipment. In a day or two after surgery, a nurse will call to check to see how you are feeling. It is important you provide the staff with a correct working phone number, so they can contact you.

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What to Expect if you will be Staying at the Hospital

What will happen if I need to stay overnight?
When your surgery is over, the surgeon will speak with your family/friends to let them know how things went and how you are doing. If the surgeon decides you need to stay overnight or stay for a longer amount of time, you will be taken from PACU to a hospital room. Your family/friends can join you there.

Will someone tell me what to do when I get home?
Yes. Before you leave, you will be given written directions on what to do at home. The nurse will go over all your instructions with you. Your instructions will cover:
  • Activities you can do
  • What you are allowed to eat
  • The types of medicine you are taking
  • Anything specific that goes along with what type of surgery you had
  • When you should see your doctor again
We are dedicated to always providing you with very good care. If we exceed your expectations, it is our pleasure to do so. If in any way we do not exceed your expectations, please let us know.

You may be mailed a survey asking to rate the service you received while here. We value this feedback and appreciate your comments.

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