What to Know Before Surgery: Pre Op Surgery Explained

Surgery is a medical procedure performed by a surgeon in a hospital or outpatient clinic to treat a disease or injury. Before undergoing surgery, it is essential to understand what to expect and prepare adequately for the procedure. The period leading up to surgery is known as the preoperative or pre-op period. This article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of pre-op surgery, its purpose, and what to expect during this period.

What is Pre-Op Surgery?

Pre-operative or pre-op surgery refers to the period leading up to a surgical procedure. It includes the time from when a patient is admitted to the hospital or clinic until he or she undergoes the actual surgery. During this time, the medical team assesses the patient’s health status, plans for the surgery, and ensures that the patient is prepared for the procedure. Pre-operative surgery helps ensure the patient has a successful recovery while minimizing complications and risks.

The Purpose of Pre-Op Surgery

The primary purpose of pre-operative surgery is to ensure the patient is adequately prepared for the procedure. This involves assessing the patient’s health status, conducting tests, and providing necessary information about the surgery. By doing so, doctors can identify any health issues that may impede the surgery’s success and address them before the procedure.

The pre-op period also allows the medical team to plan for the surgery, ensuring that the necessary equipment, supplies, and staff are available when needed. Appropriate planning helps the surgery proceed more smoothly while minimizing any delays or last-minute complications.

Lastly, the pre-operative period is essential for ensuring the patient is informed and prepared for the surgery. During this time, the patient will receive instructions on what to do before and after the surgery. This includes information on fasting, discontinuing medications, and ensuring that arrangements are in place for post-surgical care.

What Happens During Pre-Op Surgery

The pre-op period begins when the patient arrives at the hospital or clinic and continues until they undergo surgery. During this time, the medical team will perform various tests and assessments, including:

  • Blood tests to assess the patient’s blood count, electrolyte levels, and blood clotting ability.
  • Urine tests to assess kidney function and detect any infections.
  • Chest X-rays to identify any issues with the lungs or heart.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to assess heart health and detect any heart rhythm issues.
  • Other specialized tests, depending on the patient’s medical history and the type of surgery involved.

During the pre-op period, the patient will also receive instructions on various aspects of the surgery, including:

  • When to stop eating and drinking before surgery.
  • When to stop taking specific medications before surgery.
  • Instructions on how to prepare the surgical site and how to take care of wounds after surgery.
  • What to expect regarding the procedure’s duration, anaesthesia, and pain management.
  • What to expect regarding post-surgical care, including recovery times, medication schedules, and follow-up appointments.

Precautions to Take Before Pre-Op Surgery

While preparing for pre-op surgery, patients should take several precautions to ensure a successful procedure and recovery. Some of these precautions include:

  • Quit Smoking: Smoking can make surgery and recovery more challenging. Patients should quit smoking at least two weeks before the surgery.
  • Eat Healthily: Eating healthy foods can help build immunity, speeding up the healing process. Patients should eat healthy foods and avoid junk food at least a week before the surgery.
  • Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can lead to complications during and after surgery. Patients should drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine a day before the surgery.
  • Notify Your Doctor of Any Medication: Patients should notify their doctor of any medication they are taking or allergies they have. The doctor may recommend stopping medication before the surgery.
  • Prepare for Post-Surgical Care: Patients should prepare for post-surgical care, including having someone drive them home, staying with a family member, or hiring a nurse.

What to Expect After Pre-Op Surgery

After the pre-op period, the patient will undergo surgery. After surgery, the patient will wake up in a recovery room, monitored by medical staff. Depending on the surgery’s complexity, patients may need to stay in the hospital for a few hours or days. During this time, patients will receive medication for pain management and be monitored for any complications.

Once the patient is discharged, they will be instructed to follow a care plan that may include restrictions on activities, medication schedules, wound care, and follow-up appointments. It is essential to follow these instructions to ensure a successful recovery.

FAQs: What to Know Before Surgery

  • Q: Why do I need to fast before surgery?
    A: Fasting helps minimize complications during surgery, such as vomiting or inhaling stomach contents. Typically, patients are advised to fast for at least 12 hours before surgery.
  • Q: What medications should I stop taking before surgery?
    A: The doctor may recommend discontinuing certain medications before surgery, such as blood thinners, aspirin, or herbal supplements that may increase the risk of bleeding. Always consult with your doctor before stopping any medication.
  • Q: Can I eat or drink water before surgery?
    A: Patients are typically advised to fast, including water, for at least 12 hours before surgery unless instructed otherwise by the doctor.
  • Q: Can I smoke before surgery?
    A: Smoking can increase the risk of complications during surgery and slow down recovery. Patients are advised to quit smoking at least two weeks before the surgery.


Pre-op surgery is an essential period that helps patients prepare for the surgery and promotes successful recovery. During this period, patients undergo various tests and receive information on how to prepare for surgery, what to expect during the surgery, and how to care for themselves post-surgery. Understanding what to expect during the pre-op period can help patients prepare adequately while minimizing risks, complications and supporting a faster recovery.


  • American College of Surgeons. (2021). Preparing for Surgery. Retrieved from https://www.facs.org/patient-education/patient-resources/preparing
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. (2021). Surgery: What to Expect. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/surgery/about/pac-20385180
  • National Institutes of Health. (2018). Before Surgery. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/beforesurgery.html#cat_44

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