General Instructions for Patients Having Surgery

Before You Come to Have Your Surgery or Procedure

  • Follow the instructions printed on the front of the surgical package (envelope) that was given to you in your surgeon's office.
  • Ask your doctor about whether to take your usual medication on the day of surgery. Generally you should take any blood pressure or heart medication with a sip of water.
  • We recommend you stop taking herbal medications 2 weeks before your surgery date. Some herbal medications interfere with anesthetic drugs. Others have a blood thinning effect. Your pharmacist can give you additional information.
  • If you are taking over-the-counter medications that contain aspirin, ask your doctor if you are to stop taking these medications prior to your surgery.
  • Arrange for a babysitter, if you have children. You will need someone to care for them the whole day.
  • Arrange for a responsible adult to drive you home after your surgery. Discharge time will usually be about 2 or 3 hours after your surgery is over.
  • A responsible adult must also stay with you for 24 hours after your surgery or procedure.
  • If you are elderly and need help to change your clothes or read forms, you should have a family member stay with you before and after surgery.
  • If you are 16 years of age or less, your parent or legal guardian must come and stay with you.
  • Arrange for an interpreter to come with you on the day of your surgery if you do not understand English.
  • If you are pregnant, tell your doctor when talking about your surgery. Please also tell the Day Surgery staff on the day of your surgery.
  • Please advise your family and important others that only one visitor is allowed.

The Night Before Surgery

  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight. 
  • If you are diabetic, please discuss fasting guidelines with your physician.
  • Take a shower or bath the night before or morning of your surgery.

On the Day of Your Surgery

  • If instructed by your doctor, take your usual medication the morning of your surgery with a SIP of water only.
  • If you must, you may have 1 glass of water up to 4 hours before your scheduled surgery.
  • Do not have gum, candies, or cough drops.
  • When having a general anesthetic there is always a chance that teeth or dental work may be damaged or dislodged. Please advise your anesthesiologist and nurse if you have any loose teeth, false teeth, caps, bridges, or other dental work. Every effort will be taken to prevent any injury to your teeth.
  • Bring all the prescription medications you usually take with you to the hospital, unless instructed not to by the Pre-op Centre.
  • Do not take valuables to the hospital. 
  • Leave your jewelry and large amounts of money at home.
  • Do not wear make-up or nail polish.
  • For your comfort, wear loose comfortable clothing.
  • For your safety, and depending upon the type of surgery, your surgeon will be marking your surgical site.

You Will Need

  • Your reading glasses or contact lenses, including the case.
  • The name and phone number of the adult who will be driving you home and be responsible for you after you arrive home and for 24 hours following your anesthesia.

Admission / Registration

Please come to the hospital 2 hours before the time of your surgery. Go to Surgery Check-In if your procedure/surgery is done at the Mississauga site or Registration Desk if your procedure/surgery is to be done at the West Toronto site.

Following Your Surgery or Procedure

  • You will be provided with discharge instructions.
  • You must be in the care of a responsible adult for 24 hours following anesthesia.
  • You must not drive an automobile or operate hazardous machinery for 24 hours following anesthesia.
  • You should defer important decisions for 24 hours. 
  • You should not travel alone by public transportation for the remainder of the day.
  • You are advised not to consume alcohol for 24 hours following anesthesia. Its effects will add to those of your anesthetic.
  • You should eat lightly for the first meal after your anesthesia.
  • You should contact your doctor or the hospital emergency department for any post-operative problems.

Following Surgery at Home

The first few days after surgery are an important time for healing. Following these steps will help in your recovery and prevent infection.

  • Always wash your hands before touching the area where you had surgery.
  • Do not remove the initial dressing for at least 2 days, unless instructed otherwise.
  • Report any signs of infection to your doctor.

Following Surgery at the Hospital

  • There is a waiting room for family members. However on the day of surgery, you will need your rest. 
  • Short visits by one (or two people), are best tolerated.
  • You will be cared for in the intensive care unit the first day because of pre-existing medical conditions and or surgical reasons or If you are stable following you will be cared for on the surgical in-patient unit.
  • On the day you have surgery, you may have one or two IV lines in place. One IV is to provide you fluids, a second tubing line (called an arterial line), may be used to monitor your blood pressure closely. 
  • The nurse will also monitor your urine output closely, so you may have a urinary catheter initially. 

Pain Management

  • We want to ensure you are as comfortable as possible. Good management of your postoperative pain will also help with your recovery.
  • The nurse can provide you with a pamphlet on Patient Control Analgesia (medication given to your IV line), or epidural (medication given through a tubing at your back). 
  • Be sure to ask for pain medications early; don't wait and let the pain get difficult to manage. 
  • Initially you will receive medications through your intravenous line. As you are able to tolerate fluids and then food, you should be able to take you pain medication in pill form. We want you to be as comfortable as possible so you can start doing some exercises that help with your recovery.

When can I eat after Surgery?

Depending on your progression and type of surgery, you will start sips of fluids once bowel sounds have returned. The diet after surgery normally progresses from fluids, to a light diet, and then to a regular diet. Starting to eat too quickly may cause stomach upset and other problems. Your nurses and doctor will give you instructions about food, activity, and more. Don't hesitate to ask questions about your care.


How to Keep the Incision Clean?

  • You can use soap and water to gently clean your incision, starting 2 days after surgery (unless instructed otherwise).
  • Do not use strong agents (such as rubbing alcohol). These can irritate tissues and may even slow healing.
  • After rinsing off soap, pat the area dry. If it is difficult to keep the area clean, cover with a small bandage or dressing, unless you have been instructed to keep this uncovered.
  • Depending on your operation, you will either have steri strips, stitches, or staples.
    1. Steri Strips (paper tape): These will fall off on their own after about 10 days. You can peel these off if they are still on.
    2. Staples and sutures: The doctor will remove these in 14-21 days. If absorbable sutures were used, these will gradually disappear in about 2 months. Your nurse will give you instructions if non- absorbable sutures were used. 
  • For your Comfort
    • It is normal to have some discomfort around your incision. This will improve as you heal.
    • Take pain medications as ordered, especially before you have any sutures or staples removed, or have a dressing changed.
    • Avoid activities that may cause pulling on the area (e.g., vigorous activity or heavy lifting).
    • If you have any incisions on your chest or abdomen, you can support (splint) the areas when coughing or sneezing.
    • Avoid direct sun exposure; this skin can burn more easily (and sun exposure may worsen scarring).

Reasons to call your doctor

Call you doctor if:

  • Your incision has
    • Yellow or green drainage
    • A foul odour
    • Increased bleeding or oozing
    • Redness, swelling or hardening
  • The incision feels hot and tender
  • You have a fever and/or chills
  • You have increased pain despite taking pain medications as prescribed

Taking Steps for your Health

There are steps you can take to help avoid atherosclerosis and other complications. These include:

  1. Smoking cessation
  2. Improving cholesterol levels
  3. Reducing elevated blood pressure
  4. Stress reduction
  5. Regular exercise
  6. Achieving/maintaining a healthy weight
  7. Achieving/maintaining good blood sugar levels if you have diabetes

Tip: Moderate exercise such as walking 15-30 minutes each day can lower your cholesterol, lower your blood pressure, assist with weight loss and relieve stress.