The day of the surgery
Here is a general overview of what may happen on the day of the surgery. Procedures vary between hospitals and according to whether you have surgery as an inpatient or outpatient.
Learn more about:
- Admission and preparation
- The operating theatre
- Unknown factors
- Surgical wound
- Complications during surgery
The hospital will give you a time to arrive, called the admission time. When you’re admitted, you might not know the exact time of the surgery, but you’ll probably know if it will be in the morning or afternoon. Sometimes there are unexpected delays due to emergencies and the order of the operating list may change – the receptionists and nurses will keep you informed.
Sometimes surgery is cancelled on the day. Whatever the reason, this can be very stressful. The hospital staff will talk to you about the next steps and your ongoing plan of care.
Before you go to the operating theatre, a nurse will:
- review your medical history and whether you have any allergies
- check you have had a recent negative rapid antigen test for COVID
- place an identification band around your wrist or ankle
- ask when and what you last ate and drank
- check your temperature, blood pressure, pulse, height, weight and blood oxygen levels
- confirm the procedure you are having.
You will be directed to a bed and asked to change into a surgical gown. If the surgery is to a part of your body with hair, it may be clipped.
Preventing blood clots
All surgery and some cancers increase the risk of developing blood clots in the deep veins of the legs or pelvis (deep vein thrombosis or DVT). You will usually be given compression stockings to wear on your legs during and after surgery to reduce the risk. Some people may have special cuffs placed around the legs to keep the calf muscles moving during, and sometimes after, surgery. You may also be given an injection of blood-thinning medicine.
Your clothes and other possessions may be stored under the bed in a bag, in a locker or given to your support person. It’s best to leave valuables at home.
You may be given non-slip socks to wear while you are in hospital to help prevent you falling over and hurting yourself.
When I spoke with the anaesthetist before my mastectomy, we talked about which options for controlling pain would be best for me because some pain medicines made me feel sick.Beth
Podcast for people affected by cancer
Prof Elisabeth Elder, Specialist Breast Surgeon, Westmead Breast Cancer Institute and University of Sydney, NSW; Chanelle Curnuck, Dietitian – Dietetics and Nutrition, Sir Charles Gairdner Osborne Park Health Care Group, WA; Department of Anaesthetics, Perioperative Medicine and Pain Medicine, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Jessica Feeney, Nurse Unit Manager, Breast, Endocrine and Gynaecology, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; A/Prof Richard Gallagher, Head and Neck Surgeon, Director of Cancer Services and Head and Neck Cancer Services, St Vincent’s Health Network, NSW; John Leung, Consumer; Rohan Miegel, Senior Physiotherapist – Cancer Care, Flinders Medical Centre, SA; A/Prof Nicholas O’Rourke, University of Queensland and Head of Hepatobiliary Surgery, Royal Brisbane Hospital, QLD; Lucy Pollerd, Social Worker, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Suzanne Ryan, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Department of General Surgery, Sunshine Coast University Hospital, QLD; Rebecca Yeoh, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland.
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