Tips to Make Your Surgical Experience Safer, More Comfortable, and Less Stressful


Preparation for Surgery

Going through surgery is very stressful, even when it is an elective procedure with anticipation of a happy result. It is very important to recognize stress and anxiety will be present; planning for your procedure will help minimize your stress and anxiety. I hope that this article will help the experience go more smoothly and minimize the stress.

It is important to understand that each procedure is different, and each surgeon may have different protocols, so discuss, and clear these tips with your doctor.

The most important guiding principles for preoperative preparation are #1 safety, and #2 comfort. When getting ready for your procedure, always try to think proactively and anticipate possible problems that might be encountered.

Prescriptions and preparations in advance of surgery:

During the final pre-op visit, I discuss the preparations for surgery, what to expect day of surgery, and how to prepare for recovery. I also write prescriptions so they can be filled and ready for your return home. Always leave the medications at home, and it is best to secure them so they do not “disappear” or get misplaced.

Days before surgery

Some procedures may require preparation in the days preceding the operation. Be sure you understand what is involved with the prep, what items need to be purchased and when each phase of the prep must be started and completed. If you are unable to comply, inform the doctor.

If you are going to have breast surgery, avoid shaving the armpits beginning two days before surgery. For tummy tucks, cease shaving the private area two days before surgery. This will minimize risk of infection from small cuts in the skin.

Night before surgery

On the night before and morning of surgery, you will be instructed to shower with a strong antimicrobial soap such as Hibiclens ®. You may shampoo and use conditioner as per usual. The antimicrobial soap is very drying so unless the surgical area is the face, it is usually best to avoid getting the soap on the face or directly on the private parts.

On the night before surgery, pack all required items so nothing will be forgotten. Do not use any moisturizers or skin creams the night before or day of surgery.

Remember: 1. Safety and 2. Comfort.

If the surgery is planned as an outpatient procedure, all you need to do is lay out your clothing for the day. If an overnight stay is planned, you may want to think about bringing a computer, cell phone, charging cables, tablets, etc. Most hospitals have Wi-Fi for complimentary use.

Day of surgery- attire

You should wear a baggy zipper or button up shirt so that changing will be much easier. It is prudent to wear an older shirt that you will not mind getting stained in the event that there is some drainage.

Wearing a bra is optional. If you feel more comfortable in a bra, feel free to do so. Again, I recommend that you not wear any new articles of clothing. Wear a bra that is very well fitting and very comfortable. A sports bra is preferable to an underwire, but not required unless specifically instructed.

Pants should be chosen that allow for easy donning and doffing. Elastic type of pants or yoga pants is ideal. Depending on your procedure, elastic pants will make things much easier on you and your caregiver.

Undergarments are usually, but not always left on during procedures. Sometimes, during the application of surgical prep solution (antiseptic) underpants can get stained, so please either go “commando,” or wear old panties that you will not mind getting stained.

A special note on the menstrual cycle: This is a normal biological function and nothing to be embarrassed about. The period will not change what is planned. If you are on your period on the day of surgery, or expect to be on your period after surgery, plan to use only a pad. Tampons left in place for longer than about 8 hours has a risk of inducing toxic shock syndrome and are best avoided during the immediate post op period. Therefore, until you are off all medications that would alter your alertness (narcotics, muscle relaxants, anything that makes you drowsy, etc.) avoid tampons.

Shoes are very important! Remember that you will be under the influence of powerful medications, and your balance and equilibrium may be affected.  For your safety, you should wear flat shoes that are safe. For your convenience, slip on shoes are much easier than lace up shoes, and Velcro ® closure shoes are in between regarding ease of use. This is not the time for a fashion statement, so leave the spike heal shoes in the closet.

Jewelry and makeup: Quite simply, do not wear any. If you have piercings, let the nurses who admit you know about it. Some hospitals require that these metal decorations be removed before surgery. If they require removal, but you are unable to do so, let me know, and I can remove them after you are asleep.

In the pre-op area:  I will ask you “What are we doing for you today,” or something similar. This is our time to slow things down and communicate any last minute concerns, answer questions, and to ensure that we both understand each other. I encourage you to write down any questions that you have. I will also advise you on last minute post-op instructions.

Use this guide to help you prepare for the safest, most comfortable, and efficient surgical experience. Talk to your doctor and make any adjustments as needed. Best wishes for a safe and successful experience and outcome.

Article by
Dallas Plastic Surgeon