If you or a loved one has had surgery in the past few years, you may have wondered why you have to go through so many hoops when you're only having a gallbladder removed.

When you have surgery that requires anesthesia, care providers need to assess if you're healthy enough for anesthesia. That often requires a trip to the hospital for lab work, EKGs or other tests to determine if there are issues that need to be addressed before surgery. It's ideal to have this evaluation a week prior to your surgery or earlier if possible.

When you arrive at the hospital or surgery center, you will be asked to fill out a health history form. You may have filled out one for your surgeon, but this is information the anesthesia provider and the facility require to best prepare to care for you on the day of surgery.

The form includes your past and present medical problems, previous surgeries, allergies, and any prescriptions and over-the-counter medications you take. It's very important to have an accurate medication list that includes dosage and frequency. You can either bring an accurate list or bring the pill bottles themselves. It's a good idea to have a list of medications with you at all times to provide to any medical provider you may need for a planned event or an emergency.

All pre-operative testing will be completed to check that you are healthy enough for surgery. You'll have an interview with a registered nurse who will evaluate this information and provide the surgeon and anesthesiologist with any abnormal results. If you have a history of cardiac or pulmonary problems, you may need clearance from your medical provider that could include additional testing such as a stress test or pulmonary function test.

You will also be given pre-operative and post-operative instructions. Pre-operative instructions include the importance of not eating or drinking at a certain time before to your procedure. This is important because if your stomach isn't empty when you have anesthesia, you could vomit during surgery. Because you cannot protect your own airway, you become at risk for aspiration. That's when food or fluids get into your airway and possibly your lungs and put you at risk for problems after surgery.

Post-operative instructions will include what to expect after your surgery and information on how to manage pain. It is important to keep your pain under control because you will heal better and faster. Also, remember that you will be "home ready" not "street ready." This means you are able to go home, but will need assistance and unable to care for small children or run errands. The length of time depends on the type of surgery and your general health before the procedure.

By doing all of this prior to the day of surgery, both you and the surgery team are prepared. This decreases the chance of delay or cancellation of your surgery and increases the chance of having the procedure go smoothly.

Kathe Hartley is a registered nurse and Pre-Surgery Clinic supervisor, and Diane Schreckendgust is a registered nurse in the Pre-Surgery Clinic at Community Medical Center.


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