It’s important to follow your surgeon’s specific advice when getting ready for surgery. Here are some general guidelines, and things to keep in mind.
Before your surgery date, you’ll have a preoperative appointment with your surgeon. In this appointment, you’ll receive instructions on how to prepare for surgery. Make sure you understand all of the instructions and address any questions or concerns that you have. It’s very important to follow the surgery prep as closely as possible to help make sure your procedure goes well.
Be sure to tell your surgeon about any medications, vitamins or supplements that you take. You may be asked to discontinue some of these one or two weeks before surgery, because some medications and supplements can thin the blood or interact with anesthesia drugs.
Your cancer center will likely give you a pre-surgery protocol to help your body prepare for surgery. If you are not given one, you can ask your surgeon.
An evidence-based pre-surgery protocol that you may be directed to by your care team is the ERAS protocol (Early Recovery After Surgery). Read more about the ERAS protocol here.
Check out this example from the University of Kansas Health System. Of course, your surgeon will give you a protocol specialized for you.
If you are having your primary rectal or colon tumor removed, you will need to clear out your colon so the surgeon can see the area clearly — just like having a colonoscopy. This is called “bowel prep.” Starting at midnight the night before your surgery, don’t eat or drink anything. This includes water! Your healthcare team may refer to this as “nothing by mouth” or “NPO.”
If your doctor okays it, you may continue to take your medications as prescribed with a small sip of water. You may be given antibiotics to take the evening before surgery to help prevent infection. Do not smoke, starting at midnight before your surgery.
If you are having a different type of surgery, for example, a liver or lung resection, you will probably not be required to do a bowel prep — but you will have other instructions to follow. Make sure you understand the instructions and follow them as closely as possible.
Your colon or rectum needs to be cleaned out before your surgery. This is often called “bowel prep,” and if you’ve had a colonoscopy before you have already done this process! You will probably be asked to go on a clear liquid diet for 12 to 24 hours before surgery. This means you can only drink liquids, including clear broth, black coffee, jello and clear fruit juice.
Enemas and laxatives are also used to physically clean out your colon and rectum. Your healthcare team will either provide these for you, or give you directions on where to purchase them. None of this is very comfortable, but it’s crucial to follow your surgeon’s instructions.
In general, it’s a good idea to avoid taking too many things with you. You don’t want to lose track of your items, or stress about where things are. The hospital will provide most things that you need. You will likely be in the hospital for several days following your surgery, so you can always have visitors bring anything you forgot. You will probably need help and support while in the hospital, so enlist family and friends ahead of time.
Here’s a basic list of what you might need to bring:
The hospital will provide the great majority of what you need.
Here is what you should leave at home:
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