Post-surgery tips and advice: What to expect
It’s a good idea to expect the unexpected as you heal
Knowing that you’re heading into surgery can be daunting and it’s important to feel as confident as possible in the days leading up to your hospital stay.
So, whether that confidence comes from watching YouTube surgery videos on repeat (not recommended), Googling the hospital food menu or making a list of all the questions you have, 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 and although we won’t be putting a playlist of real-life surgeries for your viewing pleasure, we have partnered with one of our nib Registered Nurses to answer some of the most commonly asked surgery questions.
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. Refrain from using deodorants, powder, perfumes and moisturisers, as the product can leave residue on your skin.
Makeup is not able to be worn when you’re heading into surgery and there are a number of reasons for this. Some products mask your natural skin colour, some contain flammable ingredients and most products hold some infection risks. It’s best to arrive at the hospital fresh-faced.
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, at least 24 hours before you head into your operation is essential and be honest with your anaesthetist when you last had a smoke and what it was.
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 safest to leave your precious items safe and sound at home.
Going into surgery with food in your stomach can be dangerous and your nurses and doctors will likely 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.
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.
This all depends on the type of medication. Before your surgery, chat with your doctors and nurses for their instruction on what medication you should continue to take as normal and what you’ll need to stop in the lead-up to your operation.
You’ll be required 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, try not to stress. Explain this to your specialist and in most cases, they’ll be able to tape it to your finger.
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).
If you’re having day surgery, you won’t be able to drive home afterward, 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, you should be able to arrange a cab to pick you up.
Mobile phones can interfere with some hospital equipment, so you may be asked to switch yours off when staying in certain wards. If you are staying in one of these wards, simply ask your nurse to recommend an alternative area – there are generally plenty of spaces for you to take a call or use social media.
After your surgery, you’ll generally 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.
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.
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.
During surgery, your oxygen levels will be monitored and one of the most common ways of doing this is with 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.
For some, the thought of removing dentures can be traumatic and most doctors and nurses will understand the sensitivity around it. 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 will request you remove them right before your anaesthetic, so you can remain comfortable during any preparation.
Going to hospital? Call nib on 13 16 42 and head to our Going to Hospital page so we can give you extra support throughout your journey.