Before, During and After Your Surgery

The day you have your surgery is a long one because it really begins the day before. You will be given specific instructions that may include what you are allowed to eat, when you must stop eating, and instructions about taking your medications. You may be asked to take additional medication in preparation for your surgery. You need to follow these instructions carefully, and have a clear understanding of what you are supposed to do.

The Morning of Your Surgery

You will probably be asked to arrive early at the hospital where you will check in and be directed to a holding area. A close family member can be with you while you change and get comfortable with your surroundings. A nurse will meet with you and will prepare you for surgery by placing an intravenous catheter in your arm and administer medication. At this time the surgeon and anesthesiologist will see you and answer any questions that you may have.

A photo of a female nurse preparing an intravenous line for a middle-aged black male whom is lying in a patient bed.

At this point you will be given medication that will make you very drowsy, and most patients do not remember anything after this sedation is administered. From this point on you are under constant care by the nursing staff and the doctors. Your bed is moved into the operating room and the surgeon performs the operation.

Recovery From Surgery

Your nurse or anesthesiologist will revive you from what may feel like a deep sleep. You will be very groggy for a period of time, but this will go away. You will no longer be in a surgery suite, but in an area called 'PACU,' which is an acronym for Post Anesthesia Care Unit. Unbeknownst to you, your family has been notified of the results of the surgery, and may even visit you for a brief time while you are here. By now you are becoming aware of many devices attached to you:

  • You will be attached by small wires to a device which monitors your breathing and heart rate.
  • You may have a catheter in your bladder to help you eliminate fluids.
  • You may have a tube in your nose.
  • You may have a button to push in case you are in any pain.

You may be thirsty, but until you have recovered from the anesthesia, you are not allowed to drink any liquids.

Most patients adjust slowly to this part of their recovery. The time spent in PACU allows your caregivers to make sure you have fully recovered from being under the effects of anesthesia.

A photo of a female nurse assisting a black middle-aged patient to sit up on his patient bed.

The Hospital Floor

When the effects of anesthesia have finally subsided, you will be moved to a bed on the hospital floor. Your nurse finally allows you to drink a small amount of water. Patients often remark that this is the best water they ever tasted! Unfortunately, you may also be quite hungry, but don't expect a nice meal after your surgery. The staff will slowly advance your diet from clear liquids to more substantial foods, but they have to make sure your stomach and bowels are able to handle food. They will listen to your stomach for bowel sounds and the passage of gas. Things start to happen rapidly once you have been placed in a room at the hospital:

  • You will begin to receive pain medication orally.
  • Surgical drains and catheters will be removed.
  • You will be asked to sit up in a chair, and use the bathroom. If you need assistance, a Physical Therapist may help you while walking.
  • The doctor will visit with you and may order additional tests, scans or procedures. This is to ensure that you are healing correctly.
  • A nurse will instruct you on your surgical wound, how to care for the area, and what to expect.
  • A pharmacist will go over your medications and instruct you on when to take them. (You may need to see your Primary Care Physician and adjust any medication that you are currently taking.)

Going Home

Finally, the day will come when you are going to be allowed to go home. In a hospital this is called discharge, and it can be a very frustrating time for patients. No matter how nice the nurses and staff are, it is a blessing to finally be allowed to go home, and you may become frustrated at the time it takes to discharge a patient,b ut there is a reason for this. Your safety is the most important consideration, and a lot of steps must be taken to make sure you will be okay when you are released from our care.

Read more information about recovery care at home.