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The night before your surgery


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

Read on about taking care of a few last-minute details to help make your surgery successful. Depending on the type of surgery you are having, follow any further advice from the 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. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), and other drugs.

Take only the medicines your doctor told you to take before surgery. This includes prescription medicines. If you are 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 was okay.

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 special medicated soap to use. Read the instructions for how to use this soap. If you were not given special 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 avoiding 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 the few days before on the day of surgery, you need to call your surgeon's office. The symptoms your surgeon needs to know about are:

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

What Should You Pack

Clothing items:

  • Flat walking shoes with rubber or crepe on the bottom
  • Shorts or sweatpants and a T-shirt
  • Lightweight bath robe
  • Clothes to wear when you go home (sweatsuit 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 include:

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

Updated: 8/3/2013

David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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