Your Surgery: What To Expect
You probably have many questions about what surgery will be like at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. This timeline will give you and your family members a better sense of what to expect, before, during and after surgery.
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Prior to surgery
- A nurse from the Admissions Testing Center (ATC) will review your procedure and medical history and call you to confirm that you have had the following tests:
- Blood work
- Chest X-ray
- Physical Exam
- Depending on your insurance, these tests may be completed at the Hospital Center in the ATC or at your insurance company’s designated provider.
- If you feel sick, tell the nurse. It is not a good idea to have surgery.
- If you need to have blood transfusions, you will have talked to your doctor or the nurse from the ATC about this previously.
Day before surgery
- A nurse from the ATC will call you to confirm the time of your surgery
- Unless your doctor instructs otherwise, Starting at midnight, NO:
- Candy or gum
- Your doctor or the nurse from the ATC will give you special instructions regarding your regular medications, if you have any.
- Do not shave the site of your surgery.
Day of surgery
- Dress in loose, comfortable clothing that you will be able to put on after surgery.
- Leave your valuables at home.
- Arrive at the hospital at least two hours before surgery
- Register at the ATC. You will need:
- Your photo identification card
- Health insurance card
- Copayment, if necessary (payable by cash, check, or credit card)
- You will receive a hospital identification bracelet and you will be checked before the procedure.
- If you are an inpatient: You will be picked up 90 minutes before the surgery. If you have any visitors, make sure they come two hours before your scheduled pickup time.
- A family member may stay with you until you go into the operating room.
- Sick family members should not visit because surgery patients are highly susceptible to infection.
Pre-op (before surgery)
- You will be interviewed by the surgical nurse and anesthesiologist. These questions may seem repetitive, but they are important for identification purposes.
- Your vital signs are taken.
- IV will be started and medication will be given.
- You will need to remove all jewelry and eyeglasses or contact lenses.
- If space permits, your family can wait with you.
- Some of the same questions will be asked, but again, they are important, so please answer them fully.
- You will be moved to an operating room (OR) bed and then to the OR. You can expect:
- It to be cool.
- A lot of people moving around
- A lot of instruments and light.
- Relax and ask any questions that will help make you feel more comfortable.
- Your surgeon will come see you and discuss any questions you may still have.
- Your vital signs will be monitored, like your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing.
- You will receive oxygen through a mask and IV sleep medication.
- After you are asleep, you may have a tube inserted down your throat to help with your breathing.
After surgery (PACU)
- As you wake up from the anesthesia, you will be resting comfortably in the PACU, a semi-private area, where your vitals will be monitored.
- You may be in pain, so please tell your nurses, so they can give you pain medication.
- Your throat will be dry, so the nurses will give you ice chips.
- Your family will be able to see you as soon as you are fully awake. This could take an hour.
- Your surgeon will come in and discuss the procedure with you.
- Most patients stay in the PACU no longer than 1-3 hours.
- Once you are ready to go home, you will be discharged from the PACU.
- The nurses will give you light refreshments and instructions for home.
- You CANNOT drive yourself and we will not let you leave unless you have a responsible adult with you. Your surgery will be cancelled if you do not have a responsible adult with you.
Inpatient after surgery
- You will be transferred from the PACU to a unit, where you will be carefully monitored as your recover.
- You will probably have a PCA pump, a machine that allows you to control the amount of pain medicine you can give yourself.
- You must walk after surgery as it helps prevent complications.
- You may be on a special diet or clear liquids immediately following surgery.
- Family can visit during each unit’s established visiting hours