Presurgery Checklist

You are scheduled to have surgery. The health care staff will try to make your stay comfortable. Use the guidelines below to remind yourself what to do before surgery. Be sure to follow any specific pre-op instructions from your surgeon or nurse.

Preparing for surgery

  • If you are having abdominal surgery, ask what you need to do to clear your bowel.

  • Tell your surgeon if you have allergies to any medications, latex, or foods.

  • Ask your surgeon if you might need a blood transfusion during surgery and if so, how to prepare for it. In some cases, you can donate blood before surgery. If needed, this blood can be given back (transfused) to you during or after surgery.

  • Arrange for an adult family member or friend to drive you home after surgery. If possible, have someone ready to help you at home as you recover.

  • Call the surgeon if you get a cold, fever, sore throat, diarrhea, or other health problem just before surgery. Your surgeon can decide whether or not to postpone the surgery.


  • Tell your surgeon about all medications you take, including prescription and over-the-counter products such as herbal remedies and vitamins. Ask if you should continue taking them.

  • If you take ibuprofen, naproxen, or “blood thinners” such as aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), or warfarin (Coumadin), ask your surgeon whether you should stop taking them and how long before surgery you should stop.

  • You may be told to take antibiotics just before surgery to prevent infection. If so, follow instructions carefully on how to take them.

  • If you are told to take medications called anticoagulants (blood thinners) to help prevent blood clots after surgery, be sure to follow the instructions on how to take them.

Stop smoking

If you smoke, healing may take longer. So at least 2 week(s) before surgery, stop smoking.Woman breaking cigarette.

Bathing or showering before surgery

  • If instructed, wash with antibacterial soap. Afterward, do not use lotions, oils, or powders.

  • If you are having surgery on the head, you may be asked to shampoo with antibacterial soap. Follow instructions for doing so.

Do not remove hair from the surgery site

Do not shave hair from the incision site, unless you are given specific instructions to do so. Usually, if hair needs to be removed, it will be done at the hospital right before surgery.

Don’t eat or drink

  • Unless told otherwise, don’t eat or drink anything 12 hours before surgery. This includes water, coffee, chewing gum, and mints. If you do not follow instructions about when to stop eating and drinking, your procedure may be postponed or rescheduled for another day. This is a safety issue.

  • If your surgeon tells you to continue any medications, take them with small sips of water.

  • You can brush your teeth and rinse your mouth, but don’t swallow any water.

Day of surgery

  • Do not wear makeup. Do not use perfume, deodorant, or hairspray. Remove nail polish and artificial nails.

  • Leave jewelry (including rings), watches, and other valuables at home.

  • Be sure to bring health insurance cards or forms and a photo ID.

  • Bring a list of your medications (include the name, dose, how often you take them, and the time last dose was taken).

  • Arrive on time at the hospital or surgery facility.


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