Prepping for day surgery: What you need to know before you go

Day Surgery is surgery that doesn’t require staying in the hospital overnight.

“With day surgery, it’s been determined that for the particular kind of surgery the patient is having, it’s safe for the patient to go home the same day: there are minimal incisions, less blood loss, no expected complications, and the intensity of the surgery is small and the expected pain is less, and the patient is expected to recover better at home,” says Paul Dillon, MD, Scott & White Anesthesiologist.

Dr. Dillon offers some tips on preparing for day surgery.

Foods and Medications.

Unless you’re following a specific diet prescribed by your surgeon, the general rule is to eat nothing after midnight, Dr. Dillon says. If you need to take medications in the morning, take them with a small sip of water and not with coffee, juice or milk, unless told otherwise by your surgeon. Aspirin and blood thinners should be stopped at least seven days prior to surgery.


Dr. Dillon says most surgeons would want you to quit completely, but if you have to smoke, they prefer that you don’t smoke the day of your surgery. “Stopping smoking even 24 to 48 hours before surgery improves oxygen transfer to blood during surgery,” Dr. Dillon says.


At your pre-op appointment, you’ll be given a special soap with which to clean the surgical site, Dr. Dillon says. “The night before or the morning of your surgery, take a good shower, carefully cleaning the surgical site with the special soap to remove any bacteria residing on the skin,” Dr. Dillon says.


Dr. Dillon further suggests that you don’t apply any deodorant, lotions or creams after showering. “Also, please don’t pre-shave the area because you might nick the skin, making it susceptible to infection,” Dr. Dillon cautions. “We’ll take care of shaving the surgery site for you.”

What to Bring.

It’s a good idea to bring basic toiletries with you, such as a toothbrush and toothpaste, a comb and deodorant, for after the surgery, just in case you may have to stay the night. “However, the most important thing to bring with you,” Dr. Dillon says, “is a loved one for emotional support. It’s important to have someone there by your side.”

What to Wear.

You’ll need to bring loose clothing to wear after the surgery, because you’re going to be sore. Select clothing based on the kind of surgery you’re having. For example, “If you’re having shoulder surgery, bring button-up clothing instead of pullover clothing,” Dr. Dillon suggests. “It’s hard to pull a shirt or sweater over your head when your arm’s in a sling.”

Dentures, Glasses & Contacts.

It’s fine to wear your dentures or your glasses to the day-surgery waiting area, Dr. Dillon says, but be sure to bring a container to place them in during the surgery; he suggests leaving your contacts at home.


Dr. Dillon recommends you leave all jewelry at home, especially earrings and necklaces. On occasion, wedding rings can be taped over (so they don’t have to be cut off), but it’s better to leave those at home, too. Dr. Dillon says you can wear tongue and navel piercings to the waiting area, but they’ll need to be removed prior to surgery. “You don’t want a piece of your jewelry coming loose and falling down your windpipe and causing a major complication during surgery,” Dr. Dillon warns.


Wearing make-up to the waiting area and into the day-surgery center is fine, Dr. Dillon says. “We want you to feel good about yourself. You’re already going to be in the high-fashion, backless gown. Just don’t put make-up over the surgical site,” Dr. Dillon says.

Electronic Devices.

Dr. Dillon says it is a great idea to bring your iPod or laptop to the waiting room. “If it keeps you relaxed listening to your music or watching a movie before your surgery, that’s acceptable and preferred. But we want your valuables to be safe, so be sure to leave them with a trusted loved one while you’re in surgery or keep them in the day-surgery locker,” Dr. Dillon says.


“You’ll need to bring along a driver,” says Dr. Dillon. “Anytime you’re given IV anesthesia, it’s against the law to go home by yourself. So as a general principle, always have a driver with you.”

During your pre-op appointment, you’ll meet your nurse, who will make sure everything goes smoothly. Dr. Dillon says your nurse is your first contact and your friend. He or she will take care of you, guide you through the surgery process, and answer your questions and concerns.

The day of your outpatient surgery you will also meet your anesthesiologist, who will discuss the kind of anesthesia you will have and its effects on you after the surgery.

Immediately before the surgery, “a lot of people will ask you the same questions over and over,” Dr. Dillon says. “Doctors and nurses will be very repetitive. It’s not that we don’t know what we’re doing. We’re just making sure we’re doing the right thing for the right person.”

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Prepping for day surgery: What you need to know before you go