Dos and don’ts for surgery preparation and care

Whether you’re being treated for an injury or having a cosmetic procedure, preparing for surgery can be a nerve-wracking experience.

Michelle Kelly, physician assistant in the division of plastic surgery in the Michael E. DeBakey Department of Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, shares practical tips to keep in mind ahead of surgery and during recovery.


Preparing for day of surgery
  • Avoid wearing acrylic nails or nail polish – this is where the pulse oximeter is usually placed to measure oxygen levels in your blood, and it sometimes does not work as well when you wear finger nail polish. If you forget to take it off, the surgery team can find another location on the body to monitor oxygen levels.
  • Avoid false eyelashes – anesthesiologists put tape over your eyes prior to surgery to protect them during the procedure. When they remove the tape, the false eyelashes might come off.
  • Do not wear makeup, jewelry or contact lenses.
  • Do not eat anything after midnight the day before your surgery.
Michelle Kelly
  • If you are on prescription blood pressure medication, take it in the morning, but only with a small amount of water.
  • Wear dentures and glasses if you have them, but remember you will have to take them off prior to the procedure.
  • Thoroughly read the instructions from your surgeon and follow the preparation steps, including instructions on diet and medications.
  • Before surgery, proceed with your normal exercise routine unless you are told not to. Usually, those in good physical health recover better.
  • Eat a healthy diet with adequate protein. If you’re diabetic or pre-diabetic make sure to monitor your blood sugars.
Post-surgery care
  • Remember that it’s common to have nausea following a procedure, and the surgery team can give you medication to help with it. In addition, drinks like ginger ale and Sprite and bland foods such as toast, broth, soup and crackers can help.
  • Pain medications can cause constipation, so you may be sent home with some stool softeners to help alleviate the discomfort. During laparoscopic procedures, surgeons inflate the belly so eating foods high in fiber following surgery can help get rid of the gas.
  • Eating foods high in protein is recommended following surgery because they help the body heal. Having a healthy diet overall after surgery also is beneficial. Some people find it is easier to eat small snacks throughout the day instead of big meals.
  • Ask your provider before restarting any medications or supplements after surgery.
Scar care
  • Once your scars are healed and the stitches are removed, start massaging the area. This helps soften up scar tissue and makes it less tender.
  • Apply lotion that does not irritate the skin. Thick ointments keep the skin moisturized and are helpful for healing.
  • Applying vitamin E oil, silicone sheets, or silicone creams can help reduce the visibility of the scar (only apply once the scar has healed).
  • Wear sunscreen when you are out in the sun after surgery – it will help prevent pigmentation on the scar that can be caused by sun exposure.

-By Dipali Pathak

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