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It's the night before your surgery


You have spent weeks going to appointments, preparing your home, and getting healthy before surgery. Now it is time for surgery. You may feel relieved or nervous to be at this point.

However, taking care of a few last-minute details can help make your surgery more successful.


A week before surgery you may have been told to stop taking drugs that make it harder for your blood to clot. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), and other drugs.

You may also be told yo stop taking blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or apixaban (Eliquis). You also may have been told to get anticoagulant injections. Make sure you follow the instructions for when to stop these medicines.

You should take only the medicines your doctor told you to take before surgery. This includes prescription medicines. If you are confused about which medicines to take on the night before or the day of surgery, call your doctor.

DO NOT take any supplements, herbs, vitamins, or minerals before surgery unless your doctor said it was OK.

Bring a list of all your medicines to the hospital. Include the ones that you were told to stop taking before surgery. Make sure you write down the dosage and how often you take them.

Washing your skin

You will probably be asked to take a shower or bath both the night before and the morning of surgery.

Your health care provider may give you a special medicated soap to use. Look for instructions for how to use this soap. If no one gave you special soap, use Dial or another antibacterial soap you can buy at the store.

It is important that you DO NOT shave the area over or around your knee. The doctors or nurses will do that at the hospital.

Scrub your nails with a brush. Remove nail polish and makeup before you go to the hospital.

Eating and drinking before surgery

Most of the time, you will be asked not to eat or drink after midnight. This usually means avoiding both solid foods and liquids.

You may brush your teeth and then rinse your mouth in the morning. If you were told to take any medicine on the morning of surgery, you may take them with a sip of water. You should not have breakfast or coffee the morning of surgery.

Symptoms to report

Rarely, you may have symptoms that your surgeon needs to know beforehand.

  • Any new skin rashes or skin infections (including herpes)
  • Cold symptoms or cough
  • Fever
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath

What should you pack

Clothing items:

  • Flat walking shoes with rubber or crepe on the bottom
  • Shorts or sweatpants and a T-shirt
  • Lightweight bath robe
  • Clothes to wear when you go home (sweatsuit or something easy to put on and take off)

You should bring your crutches, cane, or walker to the hospital.

Personal care items:

  • Bring eyeglasses instead of contact lenses if possible.
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant
  • Razor (electric only)

Other items may include 

  • Books, magazines
  • Important telephone numbers of friends and relatives
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Review Date: 8/9/2018

Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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