Specific Information: Preparation

Before you come into hospital

Here are some things that you can do to prepare yourself for your operation and reduce the likelihood of difficulties with the anaesthetic:

  • If you smoke, you may consider giving up for several weeks before the operation. The longer you can give up beforehand, the better. Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood and increases the risk of breathing problems during and after an operation. If you cannot stop smoking completely, cutting down will help.
  • If you are very overweight, many of the risks of having an anaesthetic are increased. Reducing your weight will help. Your GP or a dietitian will be able to give you advice about this.
  • If you have loose or broken teeth, or crowns that are not secure, you should visit your dentist for advice and treatment. The anaesthetist may need to put a tube in your throat to help you breathe, and if your teeth are not secure, they may be damaged.
  • If you have a long-standing medical problem such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma, hypertension, or epilepsy, your GP should give you a checkup. Any information you may have from your specialist would also assist your anaesthetist.
On the day of your operation
  • Fasting

The hospital should give you clear instructions about fasting. Please follow these strictly, as failure to comply risks having the surgery cancelled. Usually no food for six hours and no fluid for four hours is recommended prior to surgery. Sometimes clear fluids ( water/apple juice) not milk and other fruit juices are allowed up to two hours before especially in young children. Food coming up from the stomach in to the lungs during an anaesthetic can be a life threatening complication.

  • Your normal medicines

You should continue to take your normal medicines up to and including the day of surgery, unless your anaesthetist or surgeon has asked you not to. However, there are exceptions. For example, if you take drugs to stop you getting blood clots (anticoagulants), aspirin, or drugs for diabetes you will need specific instructions. If you are not sure, your anaesthetist or surgeon will advise you.

If you feel unwell

If you feel unwell when you are due to come into hospital for your operation, the hospital will need to know. Depending on the illness and how urgent the surgery is, your operation may need to be postponed until you are better. Your hospital should give you details of who to contact.

Health check before your anaesthetic

Your anaesthetist will meet with you before your operation, to discuss your anaesthesia and to perform a relevant examination. Depending on the type of operation, hospital or facility, this may not occur until immediately beforehand.

The questions may be about:

  • Your general health and fitness
  • Any serious illnesses you have had
  • Any problems with previous anaesthetics
  • Any heartburn
  • Any pains you have which would make lying in one position uncomfortable
  • Any medications you are taking
  • Any allergies you have
  • Any loose teeth, caps, crowns or bridges
  • Whether you smoke or drink alcohol
The Anaesthetic Plan

Your anaesthetist will discuss with you which anaesthetic methods can be used. Having talked about the benefits, risks and your preferences, you can then decide together what would be best for you.

The choice of anaesthetic depends on:

  • Your operation
  • Your answers to the questions you have been asked
  • Your physical condition
  • Your preferences and the reasons for them
  • Your anaesthetists recommendations for you and the reasons for them
  • The equipment, staff and other resources at your hospital

Occasionally, your anaesthetist might find something about your general health that could increase the risks of your anaesthetic or operation. It might then be better to delay your operation until the problem has been reviewed or has resolved. The reasons for any delay would always be discussed with you at the time. Your anaesthetists main concern is your safety.