Deciding to have surgery may have been an easy or difficult decision. A range of factors impact upon how risky surgery can be. As a patient, you can take steps to improve your wellness and decrease the chances of any complications occurring. 

A team performs surgery

Lifestyle and health considerations

We advise you to consider your lifestyle: 

  • smoking – giving up for several weeks before your operation reduces the risk of breathing problems and makes your anaesthetic safer. The longer you give up beforehand, the better. If you are unable to quit, cutting down is the next best option 
  • weight – if you are overweight or obese, losing weight will reduce many of the risks of anaesthesia 
  • teeth – if you have loose teeth or crowns, treatment from a dentist may reduce the risk of damage to your teeth if the anaesthetist needs to put a tube down your throat to help you breathe 
  • long-standing conditions – such as diabetes, asthma or bronchitis, thyroid problems, heart problems or high blood pressure – you should ask your GP if you need a check-up 

Tell us about any pills, medicines, herbal remedies, or supplements that you are taking. This includes prescription medicines and anything you have bought over the counter. It would be useful if you could write a list with you, to show staff.  

Tell us about any changes which might affect your surgery

If you’re having general anaesthetic, in order to avoid the last-minute cancellation of your surgery, please inform the surgical pre-assessment team of any: 

  • changes to the information that you gave at pre-assessment 
  • changes to medications or existing medical conditions 
  • any new medical conditions 
  • coughs, colds or chest infections 
  • recent antibiotic treatments 
  • changes to urinary symptoms that may suggest a urine infection  
  • flare ups of eczema or psoriasis  
  • diarrhoea or vomiting 48 hours prior to admission for surgery 
  • any blood transfusions received after your pre-assessment appointment  

To inform the team of any changes, call 01226 432795 during office hours (9 to 5 pm) 

On the day of your surgery

If you are a smoker, you should not smoke on the day of your operation. This will help avoid breathing problems during your anaesthetic. 

If you are taking medicines you should continue to take them as usual unless your anaesthetist or surgeon has asked you not to. For example, if you take drugs to stop you getting blood clots (anticoagulants), aspirin, drugs for diabetes or herbal remedies, you will be given specific, individual instructions. 

If you feel unwell on the day of the operation, please telephone the admissions unit for advice. Contact numbers are provided on your appointment letter. 

Fasting before your surgery under general anaesthetic

Clear instructions will be given about fasting.  

It is important to follow these, as food or liquid in your stomach during your anaesthetic could come up to the back of your throat and damage your lungs. 

You should stop drinking clear fluids at least 2 hours before your admission 

Clear fluids include: 

  • water 
  • diluting juice 
  • black tea (including decaffeinated)
  • black coffee (including decaffeinated)

Do not drink milk and drinks containing milk within 6 hours of admission. Milk (and drinks containing milk curdle) become semi solid in the stomach, and are treated as solids. 

Your operation can be cancelled if you drink even a small amount of milk or tea or coffee within 6 hours of surgery.  

Non-clear fresh fruit juices containing pulp (e.g., fresh orange juice) should be avoided within 6 hours of admission. 

You should stop eating all foods and stop drinking some fluids 6 hours before your admission. 

This includes: 

  • all foods 
  • all non-clear fluids 
  • tea or coffee with milk 
  • fizzy drinks 
  • fruit juices with pulp 
  • sweets, chocolate or chewing gum 
  • milk 

You can eat normally on the day before your surgery but it is a good idea to avoid large or fatty meals. This is because fat and dietary fibre tend to remain in the stomach for longer than other foods. 

Most people will not eat after midnight and this can be a convenient cut off point. Children can be given a snack before bedtime. 

How long do I need to fast for?

  • Clear fluids including water, juice, diluted cordial, black tea or coffee - 2 hours 
  • Breast milk (babies) - 4 hours 
  • Non-clear fluids including tea or coffee with milk, milk or fizzy drinks - 6 hours 
  • Snacks including toast, pastries, chocolate, sweets, crisps, or chewing gum - 6 hours 
  • Full meals - 6 hours 

Important information

If you do not follow these instructions on fasting, your surgery may be cancelled. You may not be offered any further dates for surgery and you may be referred back to your GP.   

Your anaesthetist will meet you before your operation 

Your anaesthetist will meet you for a pre-operative consultation to discuss your general health; whether you are taking any medications, and whether you have any allergies. They will also discuss types of anaesthetic that can be used, and all the benefits and risks before advising on what would be most suitable. 

You might find it helpful to bring a written list of any questions you want to ask. 

Nothing will happen to you until you understand and agree with what has been planned for you. You have the right to refuse if you do not want the treatment suggested or if you want more information, or more time to decide. 

After your operation 

After the operation, you may be taken to the recovery room. Recovery staff will be with you at all times. When they are satisfied that you have recovered safely from your anaesthetic you will be taken back to the ward. 

Pain Management after surgery information