Skip to content

18 Questions about your surgery that you're embarrassed to ask

We've answered all the tricky questions

A young woman in a hospital bed gives the thumbs up
A young woman in a hospital bed gives the thumbs up

Preparing for surgery can be daunting so it’s important to feel as confident as possible in the days leading up to your hospital stay.

Make a list of any questions you have, and don’t underestimate the importance of having a positive mindset.

At nib, we want to make your hospital journey as simple and stress-free as possible so we've partnered with one of our nib Registered Nurses to answer some of the most commonly asked surgery questions.

Related: Going to hospital? Here’s why you should contact nib first

1. Should I shower before surgery?

Unless your doctor has told you not to shower, it’s a good idea to shower both the evening before your surgery and the morning of your surgery.

2. Can I wear deodorant before surgery?

Refrain from using deodorants, powder, perfumes, lotions and moisturisers, as the products can leave residue on your skin.

3. Can I wear makeup in surgery?

Don’t wear makeup when you are going in for surgery. Some products like foundation can mask your natural skin colour, which the surgical team need to be able to see, so it’s best to arrive at the hospital fresh-faced.

4. Can I smoke before surgery?

Smoking increases risk of complications in surgery, including blood clots, pneumonia and heart attacks, so the earlier you stop smoking before your surgery, the better. This includes e-cigarettes or vaping. However, it’s essential you don’t smoke at least 24 hours before surgery and you must be honest with your anaesthetist about when you last smoked and what you smoked.

A young man talks to a medical professional in her office

5. What happens with my valuables while I’m in surgery?

Generally, when you’re admitted into hospital, you’ll be given a lockable drawer or small safe to store valuables in, but it’s probably best to leave your precious items at home.

6. Can I eat before surgery?

Going into surgery with food in your stomach can be dangerous and your medical team will advise you to fast for at least six hours prior to being admitted – this includes chewing gum and breath mints. Make sure you get instructions from your nurse or doctor and follow them closely.

Related: Heading to hospital? Here’s what to pack in your overnight bag

7. Can I drink alcohol before surgery?

It’s recommended that in the lead-up to your surgery, you reduce your alcohol consumption as it could alter the effects of the anaesthetic. In the 24 hours before your surgery, you shouldn’t drink any alcohol.

8. Can I take my usual medication before surgery?

This depends on the type of medication. Before your surgery, take advice from your medical team on what medication you should continue to take as normal and what you should stop in the lead-up to your operation.

9. Can I wear jewellery or my wedding ring into surgery?

You’ll have to remove all jewellery before you head into surgery, so we recommend taking it off and leaving it at home to make sure it doesn’t get lost or misplaced. If you are worried that your wedding ring won’t come off your finger, explain this to your specialist and in most cases they will put tape or plaster over your ring.

10. What should I wear into surgery?

Before you head into surgery, you’ll likely be given a hospital robe to put on, so what you wear to the hospital is really up to you. However, we recommend wearing comfortable clothing and footwear that’s easy to take on and off as needed and a spare change of underwear (you’ll never know when it might come in handy).

11. Can I drive home after surgery?

If you’re having day surgery, you won’t be able to drive home afterwards, so it’s essential to organise transport home. The hospital may require you to be accompanied home by a family member or friend, but if not, arrange for a taxi to pick you up.

A doctor checks on a senior woman in hospital

12. Can I use my mobile phone in the hospital?

Mobile phones can interfere with some hospital equipment, so you may be asked to switch yours off when staying in certain wards. If that’s the case, ask your nurse where you are allowed to take a call or use social media.

Related: How do I know if I’m covered for a procedure?

13. How long will I be in recovery for after surgery?

After your surgery, you’ll be taken into a recovery room with other patients where you’ll be monitored until you’re ready to be transferred to your ward. The amount of time you’ll spend in recovery depends on the complexity of the surgery, your response to the treatment and your overall health.

14. Do I need to take my nib card with me?

It’s a good idea to take your nib card with you to hospital; but if you do forget it, don’t stress. The hospital should have all your details on file before you’re admitted for surgery.

15. Does someone need to wait with me during surgery?

It’s not essential that someone waits at the hospital while you’re in surgery. If you do decide to bring along a support person, they’re usually welcome to wait in the reception area until you’ve been allocated a bed.

Related: Post-surgery tips and advice: What to expect

16. Can I wear acrylic nails or nail polish into surgery?

During surgery, your oxygen levels will be monitored and one of the most common ways of doing this is using a probe placed on your finger. Nail polish and acrylic nails can interfere with this, so you may be asked to remove the polish or acrylics before you arrive. Some surgeons might agree to letting you keep your acrylics on, so long as you remove one from each hand, but it’s best to discuss with the hospital prior to admission.

17. Can I wear my dentures in surgery?

Dentures can be a hazard during your operation, as they may become loose and obstruct your airways while you’re under anaesthetic, so in order to keep you safe, you’ll be asked to take them out. However, many surgeons understand that removing dentures can be traumatic and will request you remove them right before your anaesthetic, so you can remain comfortable during any preparation.

18. Can I wear a tampon during surgery?

If you have your period on the day of your surgery, let the surgeon, surgical nurse or anaesthetist know. Instead of a tampon, they will probably ask you to use a pad in case they need to catheterise you during surgery.

Going to hospital?

If you're an nib member, call us on 13 16 42 and head to our Going to Hospital page so we can give you extra support throughout your journey.