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Surgery day: What to expect

Before surgery

Surgery day has arrived! What happens on the day of surgery can vary greatly depending on your specific procedure and the hospital you’re having your operation at.

When you arrive at the hospital, you will be asked to register. You may be asked for a photo ID and your insurance details. You will also be asked to sign consent forms for the procedure.

Once the surgical team is ready for you, you’ll change into a hospital gown. Your care team may ask you why you are there. This is to find out what information you already know about your procedure! A nurse will ask you some basic questions about your recent medical history and check your vital signs. Then, they will insert an IV, so you can receive drugs and fluids throughout your procedure and hospital stay. Sometimes you can get your IV in your port or PICC line, other times they will insert a cannula in your arm. You may get some basic lab work done, or other types of monitoring such as an EKG, to make sure that you are healthy enough to go into surgery. You may also be asked to confirm the contact details of the person you would like them to call with surgery updates. 

During this time, you will probably have a lot of different people asking you to repeat your name and date of birth multiple times. It can get pretty annoying! But this is to make sure that there is no mix-up between patients, and that you are getting the right procedures, tests, and medications. 

After all this prep is done, you’ll be taken to the operating room where you will be given general anesthesia. This is administered through your IV. You may be asked to start counting to 10 — and you will likely doze off before you hit 5. That’s the last thing you’ll remember before waking up in the recovery room!

After surgery

You may wake up with a lot of tubes and wires all over your body. Don’t be alarmed! You may have an IV drip for fluids and medications, as well as a heart monitoring device, a device to monitor your oxygen levels, a catheter so you don’t need to move to pee, and a nasogastric tube to give your digestive system a rest. You may also have a device that delivers morphine when you press a button. It seems like a lot, but don’t worry, this will all come out before you go home. If you are in pain, or have any concerns, let your team know right away so they can adjust things for you.

Some patients may be offered a pain-reducing procedure called a nerve block, which can be administered after surgery and requires an additional consent form. Nerve blocks can reduce the amount of pain medication needed after surgery.

After a period of time in the recovery room, you’ll be taken to your hospital room. Here, you’ll be monitored for a couple days, depending on your type of surgery and your health history.

In the US, you will likely not get anything to eat the day after surgery. Patients are given ice cubes or a wet towel to suck on for hydration. The day after, you may start eating a little bit of food.

Patients receive medication to stop gut motility for surgery, so you may need some extra time for your digestive tract to wake up. Some patients have issues peeing after surgery, but this improves over time. Make sure to communicate with your care team about your side effects throughout the recovery process. 

How long you stay in the hospital is usually based on specific milestones as well as a potential observation period to make sure you don’t have an infection. These milestones can include how well you fart and poop, as well as how well your pain is managed by oral medication. If a specific discharge timeline is helpful for you, chat with your surgeon about what specific milestones they want you to reach before discharge.

Want to learn more about surgery?

Join one of our COLONTOWN Facebook groups:

  • COLONTOWN Downtown Come visit COLONTOWN’s main street for general discussions about surgery
  • Corner Cupboard for discussions on side effect management
  • Palliative Pathways for advice on how your palliative care team can help you cope with side effects
  • Rectalburgh for patients with rectal cancer

Want to join? Fill out the registration form here.

COLONTOWN University has so much more to offer, from DocTalk videos with CRC experts to easy-to-understand biomarker test breakdowns. We’re here for you! See our list of Learning Centers here.