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Your Surgery Journey: Patient Guide

Getting ready for your surgery

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​You have an important part in getting ready for your surgery. Planning ahead and getting your body as healthy as you can will help make your hospital stay more comfortable. It also gets you home faster and helps you recover more quickly.

Plan Ahead

  • Plan for ​a ride home. Ask a family member or friend to take you home after your hospital stay.
  • Plan for meals. Good nutrition is important for your recovery, but cooking may be harder to do right after you get home. Prepare and freeze meals before your surgery or ask friends and family to help you cook or shop for groceries.
  • ​Get help with chores. After you get home you may need help. For a short time after your surgery, you may be told to avoid certain physical activities like vacuuming, bending, or lifting. Plan ahead and arrange to have someone help with chores after your surgery.
  • Buy gum or hard can​dies. Chewing gum and sucking on hard candies may help get your bowels moving after surgery. Bring these with you to the hospital.​

Be as healthy as possible

  • Be active. Being​ active before surgery will make it easier for you to be active after surgery. If you’re normally active, keep doing your regular activities up to the day of your surgery. If you aren’t used to exercising, or being active​ start slowly. You can start by going for 10 to 15 minute walks.
  • Eat healthy. Eating healthy foods will give your body the nutrients it needs to prepare for and handle the surgery. Eat healthy foods and drink enough fluids in the weeks before your surgery. Your healthcare team will tell you how long before surgery that you need to stop eating and drinking.
  • ​Manage y​our medical conditions. If you have other medical conditions, such as anemia or high or low blood sugar, ask your healthcare team what you need to do to prepare for surgery.
  • Quit tobacco. You’ll heal faster and be at lower risk of lung problems after your surgery if you quit tobacco. Aim to quit smoking and using tobacco and tobacco-like products at least 4 weeks before your surgery. Talk to your healthcare team about ways to quit or cut back. Visit​ for helpful tips and support.
  • Don’t drink alcohol in the 24 hours before surgery. Alcohol, cannabis, and other drugs may interact with medicines you take before and after surgery. Talk to your healthcare team if you need help stopping or cutting back on alcohol, cannabis, or other drugs. ​​

For your own safety, tell your healthcare team if you use alcohol, cannabis, or other drugs including medicines such as herbal​ or complementary medicines.

The Pre-Admission Clinic

As part of your surgery journey, you'll talk with a nurse from the Pre-Admission Clinic (PAC). The PAC is a hospital department that helps you prepare for surgery. You may have this appointment at the hospital or over the phone.

This is an important time to talk about how to be as healthy as possible before your surgery and ask any questions you have. It’s important for you to follow all the instructions that the PAC team gives you.

The PAC healthcare team will:

  • talk to you about all your medicines (including herbal or complementary medicines) so you know which ones to keep taking and which ones you may need to stop
  • let you know if you need tests before surgery
  • give you information about eating and drinking before surgery (follow the link or go to: Eating and drinking before surgery: Patient instructions in the Resources section).
  • let you know how to find out about your surgery time
  • explain how to do a bowel prep (clean out your bowels), if you need to do one before your surgery.

In some cases, you may also meet with an anesthesiologist. This is a specially trained doctor who makes sure your pain and breathing are well controlled during surgery. They'll give you medicines to numb the area of your procedure or that makes you unconscious (sleep) during your surgery. They'll also give you any other medicines you need during surgery to manage your care safely.

Current as of: October 7, 2022

Author: Surgery Strategic Clinical Network, Alberta Health Services