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Outpatient Surgery 101

How To Prepare For Outpatient Surgery

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  • Scheduling an outpatient procedure: 
    • It is preferable to have the procedure scheduled for first thing in the morning. There is less likelihood of delay getting started. Your doctor will also be fresh. 
    • Preferably do not schedule the procedure the day before a weekend or a holiday in case there are complications. Medical facilities tend to be understaffed on weekends and holidays.
  • Medications:
    • Review your List of Medicines with your doctor. Be sure it includes all prescription and over-the-counter drugs as well as vitamins, herbs and supplements.  Are there any drugs you should stop taking before the procedure? If so, which drugs, and how long ahead of time should you stop taking them?
    • NOTE: If there is a suggestion that you stop taking any drugs, even for a short period of time, check with the doctor who prescribed the drugs to find out what effect, if any, the time off will have. Also ask whether there are lifestyle changes or other drugs you should be taking during this period.
  • Find out what is necessary to prepare for the procedure. Preparation varies with the procedure to be performed. For example, a light meal may be recommended for the evening before, with no alcohol taken for a full day before surgery.  Generally, nothing is to be taken by mouth after midnight of the day preceding surgery - including food and water. (Eating or drinking can cause death under general anesthesia. A full stomach could lead to vomiting and subsequent aspiration of fluid into the lungs.) . 
  • Smokers should stop or cut back on smoking at least 72 hours prior to surgery. Longer is even better. Not smoking prior to surgery improves circulation and wound healing. It also improves the ability of hairlike projections in the lungs to remove mucus, which is important for the prevention of pneumonia after surgery.
  • Find out what would cause a postponement of the procedure.  For example, many procedures will be postponed if the patient has a cold, fever, chills or flu symptoms. Notify your doctor if such conditions exist. 
  • Line up a family member or friend to take you home. The doctor or facility won't let you leave after an outpatient procedure unless you are accompanied by an adult. Depending on the procedure, most patients are not fit to operate a motor vehicle after surgery. Find out whether the doctor or facility requires that the person arrives at the surgical location before the procedure with you as well. 
  • Speak with the doctor about pain management. Some doctors are not aggressive about pain management. As a general matter, people do not become addicted to pain medications when prescribed to manage pain from a procedure.
    • Try to get the prescriptions filled prior to the procedure. If you fill the prescriptions ahead of time, they will be waiting for you when you get home. 

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