10 Things to Think About Before Your Surgery

Surgery theater lights

There’s a lot to do before you have surgery.  Even if it’s a “simple” procedure, it will likely screw up your life for a while. You also get a lot of information thrown at you in a short amount of time.  So, I’ve tried to distill some do’s and don'ts into a relatively concise list.

  1. Get a ride home.  Sounds obvious but…  Your facility can’t send you home in a cab and ou’ll be in no condition todrive for a few days after your procedure.  Most facilities also advise that you not be alone the night after your surgery.  You don’t need someone to hover over you (otherwise you’d just stay in the hospital), but having someone within earshot if you fall, someone paying attention if something goes really wrong is a necessity.  No one is quite right after anesthesia for about 24 hours.
  2. Have someone reliable go with you or designated as your “person to call” after surgery. Surgeons look for a family or friend to debrief after the procedure is done and you want that person to be able to effectively communicate what the surgeon said to you later.  It’s not unreasonable to have them tape this conversation but make sure you let the surgeon know you’re doing that (like they do when you call the cable company, “this call may be recorded”…).
  3. Stock up on OTC meds. Almost everyone can supplement their prescription meds with some over the counter stuff.
    • NSAIDS – A lot of pain pills have Tylenol in them so be careful adding too much of this (standard dose for an adult is less than 4000mg / day). Ibuprofen, Aleve, etc.  work through different mechanisms than narcotics so they may be a good addition to your prescription regimen.
    • Antihistamines – Narcotics can make people itch, this is part of their pharmacology, not (usually) an allergic reaction. They make you release histamine.  Having some Benadryl or other antihistamine on hand isn’t a bad call.
    • Stool softeners – narcotics can also be very constipating. Water, walking, fruits and veggies all help but a good stool softener is something to have on hand.  If you’re prone to constipation anyway, start taking it pre-op
  4. Get a timer. Or use the one on your phone.  Taking your meds on a schedule helps you stay ahead of your pain.  Sometimes you forget when you took what and/or are sleepy and forget to take the next dose.  Setting timers and writing down times you took your meds helps you stay on track and may help you recover faster (and move more, and feel better…).
  5. Primp.  You may not be able or feel like shaving, plucking, mani-pedi-ing for a while after your procedure.  Get everything as squared away as possible beforehand.  Caveat – anything that can irritate or break your skin can in theory lead to infection which may postpone or complicate your surgery.  Be gentle.
  6. Find all your comfy clothes (and underwear). Make sure they’re clean, soft and easy to get to.
  7. Put your crappy sheets on the bed. Your wound(s) may weep / leak onto your bedding in the short term so - if you can, sleep on some not-so-special sheets for a while.
  8. Download good things to watch. However you get your TV / movies, find some things you know you’ll enjoy before you go in.  Whether it’s grabbing good DVD’s and putting them by the player, adding stuff to your on demand / Amazon / iTunes library, whatever.
  9. Stock your fridge. Especially if you live alone.  It’s likely you won’t be able to drive for at least a few days after your surgery so make sure you have enough to eat in the house for those days.
  10. Think about stairs. You may not find going up and down stairs very comfortable in the short term.  Consider setting up a comfy place to sleep downstairs, at least for during the day.  Make sure you can get to a bathroom easily and have a phone nearby.

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