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16 Tips On How To Optimally Prepare For Surgery

16 Tips On How To Optimally Prepare For Surgery

If you undergo surgery well-prepared you will heal faster and with a lower chance on complications. There are also things you can do to reduce anxiety and stress that often accompanies the period before surgery. This makes the experience more tolerable which is beneficial since feeling better also aids healing.

Here is an overview with advice on how to feel calmer before surgery, have less pain after surgery, strengthen your immune system, use less pain medication, recover faster, and save money on medical bills.

Wether you are undergoing breast lift, knee, or cardicac surgery, here are general tips on how to prepare yourself for surgery during the perioperative period.

Connect with the surgeon and his or her team

knowing you've prepared well before you surrender to the care of the surgeons can be really comforting
knowing you’ve prepared well before you surrender to the care of the surgeons can be really comforting

Inform yourself about your surgery. It turns out that well-informed patients usually are more satisfied afterwards.

Read and study. Meet your medical team including the surgeon and the anesthesiologist and ask them questions about risks, possible complications, recovery time and other things you want to know.

Make notes. One study found that patients forgot 56% of their instructions shortly after leaving the clinic. ()

Discuss  post-operative pain medicine plans. Inform whether or not it is useful to donate your own blood beforehand in case  a transfusion is necessary. Some hospitals offer classes on your type of surgery.

Anesthesia options

Sometimes you will have a say in the type of anesthesia you will get. Local anesthesia numbs a small part of the body, regional numbs a larger area, and general anesthesia affects your whole body. Ask about risks and after effects.

Depending on the type of anesthesia, it can be taken by injection, IV, or inhaled. Ask which type of anesthesia you will get and whether or not you have a say.

“meeting the anesthesiologist before surgery reduces a patient’s anxiety.”

Prevent surgical errors

Prior to certain procedures, the operated area is marked with a pen or marker. Ask your medical team if this can/ will be done in your case. It may be reassuring to know.

Be critical about hygiene

Keep an eye on hygienic behavior by the doctors and nurses as well as visitors. Make sure they wash or sanitize their hands before treating or comforting you.

Be diligent about your own hygiene too. Keep your hands clean. Be aware of early signs of infection which include swelling, increased pain, redness, bleeding, wound discharge, chills,  and fever.

Take action when wounds do not heal properly

Keep an eye out for potential wound infections. It seems that wound infection may be perceived as something that’s just part of the equation. Don’t accept this. If you feel wound care could be improved, ask for Medihoney dressings.

These have repeatedly shown to be an effective cure for MRSA infected wounds, especially . Surprisingly, your healthcare team may not be aware of the existence of these dressings.

Be informed about blood clotting

Certain surgeries could put you at risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT). When you feel too weak or lethargic to get out of bed your risk on DVT also increases.

Deep vain trombosis involves potentially life-threatening blood clots. Ask your medical team about risks and prevention.

Medications that affect bleeding. such as aspirine may interfere with blood clotting for five to seven days before your surgery, but be sure and discuss it with your health care provider before stopping any medicatio

Manage supplement and medicine intake

Inform your health care team about supplements you are taking. Ask which supplements you should stop taking weeks prior to surgery.

You should always ask permission from your doctor or the surgery team to stop or take certain medications or supplements.

It is often required to stop taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), weight loss and herbal supplements.

You may be required to stop taking  supplements such as ginseng, garlic, ginko biloba, echinacea as well as certain vitamins and fish oils.

Here’s an overview by the , of some common medications and supplements that may need to be discontinued prior to your procedure.

Make grocery preparations

Stock up your home’s food supply before you enter the hospital so you don’t have to shop or ask people to do grocery shopping for you when recovering. This is important since adequate rest is of utmost importance during the post-op recovery period.

Make sure you have sufficient healthy food. Opt for foods and drinks you actually like because reduced appetite and less motivation may cause you to not take them which will defeat the purpose of stocking these nutrient rich foods anyway.

Eat a surgery preparation diet

If you don’t already do so start eating a well-balanced diet including plenty of foods rich in vitamin C and lots of fruits and vegetables. However don’t overdo it since extreme doses of Vitamin C should be avoided because it can cause blood thinning.

Vitamin C is not only known to help promote tissue healing but vitamin C deficiency can cause problematic bleeding “with significant clinical consequences” in surgical patients.[]

Cutting back on calories and especially reducing fat intake may also boost post-op recovery. Fat tissue is always traumatized during major surgery and by reducing intake upfront it may positively affect your outcome. More about what to eat to reduce surgical complications .

These guidelines may be more applicable for obsese patients. In general it’s recommended to eat a balanced diet that will avoid micronutrient deficiencies.

Ready the home

Set up a bed in a room downstairs if walking stairs will be problematic. Rearrange other furniture if necessary to ensure comfortable passing through the home.

Reorganize cupboards (e.g. put plates and pans at more convenient heights) if you are not allowed to lift your arms up high. Make sure you don’t have to lift heavy stuff if you are not allowed to.

Find out which post-op assistive aids you are going to need. Decide whether or not you want to obtain such devices prior to the procedure or afterwards.

Make sure there’s enough entertainment material for you to relax and pass time. Gather books, DVD’s, games, calming and soothing things around you so you don’t have to search for them when the time comes.

Here are some more ideas on how to make your post-op period more pleasant.

Get help at home

Ask friends or family to support you after discharge. Getting some help and home care can make a huge difference in the healing process.

Prepare emotionally

Surgery trauma is part physical and part psychological. Studies show that both can be considerably relieved by preparing yourself psychologically for surgery.

Certain techniques such as relaxation exercises, hypnosis, and meditation seem to help. Some hospitals offer classes with a nurse to reassure you.

Often as simple as watching an educational videotape, the principle behind all of these methods is that they give you the feeling you have some control over your recovery.

Reducing the notion that you are a passive victim are “proving to aid physical recovery and lessen the pain and anxiety that surgery brings”.

The American Journal of Public Health published a meta analysis of 34 studies involving more than 3,000 patients,  indicating that..

..patients who received psychological preparation were released from the hospital an average of two days earlier than those who received the usual presurgical treatment. Source, .


Prepare physically

Next to emotional preparation, preparing physically can also influence successful surgical outcome. Try to stop smoking if you do, avoid excessive alcohol intake, eat a healthy diet including plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and water.

Many surgeons recommend nutritional supplementation before surgery. Ask the surgery team about your recommendations. If possible exercise, taking walks or anything that gets you off the couch will help increase your chance on a successful surgery outcome.

Pain medication

Inform yourself about pain medication after discharge. Controlling pain not only makes you feel more comfortable but it also reduces risks of complication, and speeds healing.

Post surgery pain management

Pain is a normal reaction of the body after the traumatic event that surgery is. Proper pain management is crucial in certain situations since pain and stress can interfere with recovery.

Stress and anxiety themselves do not help the healing process. They can for example interfere with the return to normal digestion. Being bedridden for prolonged periods of time due to pain can increase the risk on blood clotting, suppressing coughs can lead to excess fluid in the lungs.

Narcotics, (e.g. morphine and codeine) NSAID’s such as ibuprofen and non-narcotic pain relievers may be prescribed in pill, patch, or liquid form.  Local anesthetic injections or anesthetic creams and patches may also provide pain relief after the operation.

Although appropriate post-op narcotic use is still controversial (and often discouraged) because of its side effects there are some advantages too. Since the effects of pain and stress on the immune system are very real, they may cause you to stay longer in the hospital. Which results in a higher chance on incurring a hospital-acquired infection. 

Therefore, discuss with your medical team about your options and their recommendations prior to surgery.

How to heal for surgery and heal faster, the book

Speaking about controversy, there’s the book titled Prepare for Surgery, Heal Faster: A Guide Of Mind-Body Techniques.

The book is and people commonly state it is reassuring, gives practical tips, and for instance, helps your relax beforehand and get asleep during your recovery.

There’s however also ,  talking about quackery and absurd claims being made. An example of one of these ‘extraordinary claims’:

Your illness or physical condition is already trying to “talk” to you, telling you that something is amiss. Your intuition knows what is out of balance and causing a health problem. Allow yourself to hear what it is.

I haven’t read it so I have no strong opinion (only a tendency towards..) about the book. It may be for you or it will not. Some people may find the book useful to help them prepare for their surgery, others may find it woolly (or worse).


When it comes to preparing optimally the tips in this article will go a long way. Consult with your surgeon. Adjust your diet if necessary, stop taking certain supplements after having talked with your doctor, quit or reduce unhealthy habits, prepare your home, and adopt a relaxation technique you prefer.

Fact is that being well-prepared is one of the best ways to have a great outcome from surgery.

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3 Responses to 16 Tips On How To Optimally Prepare For Surgery

  1. wintel, you call this “quackery and absurd claims”?: “Your illness or physical condition is already trying to “talk” to you, telling you that something is amiss. Your intuition knows what is out of balance and causing a health problem. Allow yourself to hear what it is.”

    On the contrary! Listening to your body when symptoms appear to tell you something needs attention is the most basic wisdom!
    Body-dialoging is in and has served me and my clients extremely well.

    If you have not read a book best is perhaps not to comment on it. But the attitude represented by the above comment made me wonder whether to trust the rest of the article.

  2. I definitely think that preparing emotionally is something that everyone should do when they are faced with surgery. I never thought about watching an educational video but I can definitely see how that would give someone a sense of control. My husband is currently dealing with a torn labrum in his shoulder so we will have to see what tips his orthopaedic surgeon has for him as far as recovery goes.

  3. I enjoyed your advice concerning emotionally preparing for the surgery. I think a lot of people prepare physically and mentally; however, they forget to adequately prepare emotionally. I did not know that meditation or hypnosis could help you relax before or after the surgery. I think that is fascinating. Any other advice of what exercises you could do? Thanks again!

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