What is surgery?

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What can you expect during surgery?

Before the surgical team starts your surgery, the team members will double-check your name. They'll check what type of surgery you are there for and what part of your body is to be operated on.


If you are having general anesthesia, a breathing tube (endotracheal tube) is placed in your windpipe. Or a special airway (laryngeal mask airway, or LMA) is placed in the back of your throat. These things help you breathe during the surgery.

Keeping things sterile

The place on your skin where the incision will be is washed with a special liquid to remove bacteria. All tools used during your surgery are sterilized to reduce your risk of infection.

Pain control

Pain control is an important concern. Near the end of your surgery, your surgeon may inject a long-acting pain medicine at the site of your surgery. It will ease your pain for 6 to 12 hours after surgery.

In the recovery area

Right after surgery, you will be taken to a recovery area where nurses will care for and observe you. A nurse will check your vital signs and bandages. He or she will also ask about your pain level.

When you wake up, you may have a small tube just below your nose that supplies oxygen to your lungs.

You will most likely stay in the recovery area for 1 to 4 hours. Then you'll be moved to a hospital room or you'll go home. You may get medicine or fluids through your vein (intravenous, or I.V.) while you are in the hospital.

Who provides care during your surgery?

A surgical team assists with your surgery. The team includes a surgical technician, a registered nurse, a nurse anesthetist or anesthesiologist, and other medical personnel. Another surgeon may help your primary surgeon. Sometimes doctors with different levels of surgical training may watch or help with your surgery. But your surgeon will be in charge.

How can you care for yourself after surgery?

You will be given some general instructions about what to do after surgery. Your surgeon may also give you some special instructions on how to care for the surgery area. Be sure to follow those instructions carefully.

  • If the instructions from your surgeon aren't clear or don't cover your particular problem, contact your surgeon.
  • If your symptom or problem starts after the office or health facility is closed, call your surgeon's office. Leave a message with the answering service (or follow instructions given on the answering machine). If you leave a message, be sure to include your name and phone number so that your surgeon (or the on-call surgeon) can contact you.

Write down your symptom or problem. It may help you become more aware of your specific symptom or problem. Or it may give you ideas about its cause. It will also help prepare you to talk to your surgeon about what you are experiencing.

Don't smoke or use other tobacco products. Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair.

What will your surgeon want to know before surgery?

Your surgeon will want to know about any concerns you have before the surgery. Tell your surgeon about any health problems you have and any past surgery. List any tobacco, alcohol, drugs, medicines, and supplements you use. Also mention if you are or might be pregnant.

What happens at the facility before surgery?

When you arrive for your surgery, your nurse will check your name, birth date, vital signs, and other medical information. The nurse will have you urinate, change into a hospital gown, and remove any hearing aids, contact lenses, or dentures. The nurse may also give you medicines or an intravenous (I.V.) line.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.