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Preparing for outpatient surgery
Plan ahead
The day before
Back home

Go smoke-free into surgery
Go smoke-free into surgery

In one study, people who smoked within 24 hours of receiving general anesthesia were 20 times more likely to have inadequate oxygen delivery to their hearts during surgery. Because surgery increases your body’s need for oxygen and the carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke interferes with the amount of oxygen your heart gets, doctors recommend that if you can’t kick the habit for good before your surgery, at least kick it for 24 hours.

Thanks to the miracle of science, surgeries that once required a hospital stay can now be done on an outpatient basis. That’s good news for those who recover better in the comfort of home, but it also means that any necessary arrangements must be made before the surgery date. If you or a loved one is facing outpatient surgery, below are some things to keep in mind to help make the experience as smooth as possible.

Plan ahead

As surgery day draws closer, you’ll find it helpful to have certain things taken care of. Once you know your surgery date and time, ask yourself these questions:

Do I need to make any changes in my house’s setup? You may have to set up a temporary bedroom on the first floor if you think you’ll have difficulty climbing stairs, for instance.

Do I have enough food in the house? Stock up on meals in the freezer (either homemade or store-bought) so you won’t have to worry about food preparation. Ask your doctor about dietary restrictions or recommendations.

Will I need help in the house?

Plan to have a friend or a family member drive you home from the hospital. It’s also a good idea to have someone stay with you during the first 24 hours. After that, schedule your visitors. They’ll brighten your mood but might also cut into your resting time. Be sure to limit visits based on how you feel.

Is there anyone I am responsible for?

If you have babysitting or caretaking responsibilities, make sure you make other arrangements for your recovery period.

The day before

Your doctor will probably instruct you not to eat or drink within eight hours of surgery. Ask your doctor if you should abstain from taking medication and whether you should bring a day’s dosage with you to the hospital.

If you are recovering from or coming down with a cold, tell your doctor. Your surgery may be postponed until you feel healthy.

Because skin-tone changes can sometimes be a sign of post-surgery problems, don’t wear any makeup the day of the surgery, including eye makeup and nail polish. Also, plan on wearing loose clothing to the hospital.

After surgery, make sure you tell your healthcare team about any discomfort, irritation or pain you feel. How long you stay at the hospital depends upon your ability to drink fluids, walk and urinate. The amount of pain you are in will also affect your discharge. Before you leave, get a written list of postoperative instructions, symptoms to monitor and “in case of emergency” phone numbers.

Back home

Be on the lookout for any radical change in symptoms that your doctor warned you about. Even if something doesn’t appear on your list but is causing distress, call your doctor to find out how to get the situation under control. Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • high fever
  • persistent nausea
  • light-headedness
  • shortness of breath
  • unusual bleeding or bruising
  • infection at the incision site