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The night before your surgery


You've spent weeks going to appointments, preparing your home, and getting healthy. Now it's time for surgery. You may feel relieved or nervous at this point.

Taking care of a few last-minute details can help make your surgery successful. Depending on the type of surgery you're having, follow any further advice from your doctor or nurse.


Two weeks before surgery, you may have been told to stop taking medicines that make it harder for your blood to clot. Among other drugs, this includes:

  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
  • Naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve)

Take only the medicines your doctor has told you to take before surgery, including prescription medicines. If you're confused about which medicines to take the night before or the day of surgery, call your doctor.

Do not take any supplements, herbs, vitamins, or minerals before surgery unless your doctor said it is OK.

Bring a list of all your medicines to the hospital. Include the ones that you were told to stop taking before surgery. Make sure you write down the dose and how often you take them. If possible, bring your medicines in their containers.

Washing your skin

You may take a shower or bath both the night before and the morning of surgery.

Your doctor or nurse may have given you a medicated soap to use. Read the instructions for how to use this soap. If you were not given medicated soap, use antibacterial soap that you can buy at the store.

Do not shave the area that will be operated on. The doctors or nurses will do that at the hospital, if needed.

Scrub your fingernails with a brush. Remove nail polish and makeup before you go to the hospital.

Eating and drinking before surgery

It is likely that you have been asked not to eat or drink after midnight. This usually means both solid foods and liquids.

You may brush your teeth and rinse your mouth in the morning. If you were told to take any medicine on the morning of surgery, you may take them with a sip of water.

Symptoms to report

If you do not feel well in the days before or on the day of surgery, call your surgeon's office. The symptoms your surgeon needs to know about include:

  • Any new skin rashes or skin infections (including herpes outbreak)
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Cold or flu symptoms

What you should pack

Clothing items:

  • Flat walking shoes with rubber or crepe on the bottom
  • Shorts or sweatpants
  • T-shirt
  • Lightweight bath robe
  • Clothes to wear when you go home (sweat suit or something easy to put on and take off)

Personal care items:

  • Eyeglasses (instead of contact lenses)
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant
  • Razor (electric only)

Other items:

  • Crutches, can, or walker
  • Books or magazines
  • Important telephone numbers of friends and relatives
  • Small amount of money


Beauchamp RD, Higgins MS. Perioperative patient safety. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 10.

Updated: 5/11/2014

Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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