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How to Prepare for Outpatient Surgery

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Planning to have surgery? Here's what you can expect.

Many types of surgery can be performed on an outpatient basis. In fact, nearly two-thirds of all surgeries are now performed in this manner, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you are planning on having outpatient surgery, here is some helpful information so you know what to expect.

What is outpatient surgery?

Outpatient surgery, also called ambulatory surgery or same-day surgery, means you do not have to stay overnight in the hospital. The surgery may be performed in a hospital or in a facility connected to a hospital. It may also be performed in a separate surgical facility. It is primarily used for elective surgeries and you typically go home within a few hours after the surgery is completed.

How do you prepare for outpatient surgery?

Each person will be given specific instructions for what they need to do or avoid prior to surgery. These instructions will depend in part on the type of surgery you're having, the type of anesthesia you will be given, your health status and other factors. It is important to follow all instructions given to you very closely so you are properly prepared for surgery.

Some of the instructions you may see reference:

  • When you should stop eating or drinking. If you are having sedation or general anesthesia, you will be told when you must stop eating or drinking before surgery. In some cases, it will be at a specific time the night before surgery or you may be told to stop a certain number of hours before you arrive.
  • What you should do about your regular medication. You will receive specific instructions about which of your medications you should take or skip before your procedure. This may include instructions for the morning of the procedure, as well as instructions for the days leading up to it. Be sure to follow these instructions carefully.
  • Whether you need to bring someone with you. If you have any type of anesthesia that sedates you or puts you to sleep, you will not be able to drive home. You will need to show that you have a responsible person with you that can get you home. It will also help to have a family member or friend with you for support and to help you remember your discharge instructions.
  • What to wear. Most often, it will be recommended that you wear loose-fitting comfortable clothing. This will make it easier for you to get dressed if you have bandages or are feeling sore.
  • What time to arrive. You'll be told when to arrive and where you need to go when you get there. It's important that you arrive on time.
  • What to expect after surgery. Although this information may not be given to you until you arrive at the facility or after your procedure, you will be told what to do and what to expect during your recovery. You will also be told how to treat any side effects and what to look out for that may indicate you need to call the doctor right away.

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Date Last Reviewed: May 18, 2023

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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