What to Expect on the Day of Surgery


Surgery can be somewhat frightening even for the bravest among us. You are only partially clothed, everywhere you look people are dressed in masks, and they’re all walls filled with strange devices and unfamiliar machines. Having a bit of intraoperative information can make your surgical experience a little more comfortable. The following article is meant to provide you with some intraoperative information that is common to most surgeries.

Assuming the procedure was planned in advance, you will probably be a little hungry because you will have to fast for several hours before the surgery. This is not a cruel joke that doctors play on patients. The main reason that you cannot eat before surgery is to prevent complications with anesthesia. Since the anesthesiologist must put a tube in your throat to help you breathe during surgery, if you gag upon placement or removal you do not want to bring stomach contents up into the lungs. Thus your stomach will be given plenty of time to empty because you will not eat anything starting at midnight the night before the surgery.

You will be dressed in a gown or less depending on the operation. Your body needs to be sterile (free of microorganisms) and the surgical field needs to be free of obstruction. Sadly this means that you will be rather exposed during surgery but please bear in mind that your modesty is being considered at every part of the surgery. You are only exposed as much as necessary and the areas that can be covered always are.

Prior to the surgery, you may have an IV line placed in your arm or hand. This will allow the anesthesiologist to easily provide you with medicines during the procedure. You may also have other sensors placed on you so that things like heart rate, electrical function, and blood pressure can be monitored. If you need arterial blood monitoring during the procedure, most anesthesiologists wait until you are sedated to place this arterial line—its placement tends to be more painful than the placement of an IV.

Moving to and from surgery you will be treated like a king or queen of sorts. You will be lying on a stretcher and medical staff will be moving you everywhere you need to go. First, you will be transported to the pre-operative waiting area, then to the surgical suite, and then, after the procedure, to a postoperative recovery area.

When you enter the actual surgical suite it can be quite unnerving. There are a number of futuristic monitors, big overhead lights, perhaps a viewing arena, and (while they should be completely out of sight) surgical instruments. Remember that these machines are each technological marvels designed to provide you with the best surgical care possible. Also, keep in mind that all of the people in that room have completed years of rigorous training to provide the service that they are about to perform. By the time you enter the surgical suite, you should have met (and feel completely comfortable with) your anesthesiologist and surgeons who are going to care for you.

By the time you reach the recovery area, you may be groggy and a little sore, but the procedure will be over. Many people forget much of what went on immediately prior to the surgery. If that happens, count yourself lucky. And if you are having surgery a second time and do not remember the first, just read this article before your next surgery for some important intraoperative information!

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