Get information on how to prepare for your surgery.

  • How should I prepare for my surgery?

    In the months and weeks ahead

    You are the most important person on your care team. You play a key role in staying as healthy as you can be before surgery and in your recovery after surgery. 

    Before surgery, focus on things you can do to be as strong and as healthy as possible. This helps you recover faster. You are also less likely to have any problems during or after surgery.

    • Healthy diet: Eat a balanced diet with healthy foods that include vegetables, fruit, lean protein, as well as foods rich in iron and calcium. 
    • Activity and exercise: Stay active and exercise regularly (strengthens your muscles and improves your blood flow). Even walking 10 minutes a day and increasing the amount of time you walk will aide in your recovery. To get help making an exercise plan, talk to your family doctor or call the Physical Activity Line (1-877-725-1149 or
    • Alcohol: Limit alcohol to no more than one drink each day. If you have concerns about limiting alcohol, talk to your doctor.
    • Smoking: Stop smoking. You can get free nicotine patches or gum to help you quit. To register for the B.C. Smoking Cessation Program, call 8-1-1 or visit If you cannot quit, try to cut down.

    If you have any health concerns or want to improve certain aspects of your health before your surgery, speak to your family doctor.

    For information on diet, exercise, and how to quit smoking, call 8-1-1 or go to

    This is a good time to ask any questions that you may have and to tell your health care team about your worries and needs before you leave. If you need additional services such as rehabilitation or home nursing care, this will be arranged before you go home. You may be given a prescription that your support person will need to get for you from a pharmacy.

    You might also need help the first few days at home after surgery. Make plans with family or friends to help you with meals, laundry, shopping, and getting to and from appointments. If you do not speak or understand English very well, arrange to have a family or support person with you who can help you or ask us to arrange an interpreter for you.

    One week before

    Arrange for:

    • A ride to the hospital.
    • A ride home from the hospital.
    • An adult to stay with you and help you for a few days at home after surgery.
    • Continue to take your regular medicines unless you have been told to stop by the anesthesiologist.
    • Stop any shaving, waxing, threading, or using any other method of removing hair from around where you are having surgery.
    • Read all the instructions given to you for preparing for surgery and buy items needed.
    • If the Pre-Admission Clinic or your surgeon asked that you do a Chlorhexidine Skin Cleaning, buy from a pharmacy the Chlorhexidine Gluconate product described in the skin cleaning instructions given to you by the Pre-Admission Clinic nurse. If you were no asked to do a Chlorhexidine Skin Cleaning, no special skin cleaning is needed.
    • Stop taking:
      • All vitamins and herbal/health supplements (such as garlic, gingko, kava, St. John’s Wort, ginseng, don quai, glucosamine).
      • Fish oils.

    The day before

    • Follow your regular daily routine.
    • If you are having bowel surgery, follow the instructions from your surgeon for how to prepare your bowel for surgery. Start this preparation this morning.
    • For 24 hours before surgery, do not drink any alcohol.
    • Pack your bag for the hospital.

    Note: Ask a family member or friend to bring your bag to you after the surgery. We have limited space to store everyone’s bags during surgery.

    Below is a list of personal belongings to pack: 

    • Non-slip slippers or shoes.
    • Bath robe.
    • Toothbrush and toothpaste.
    • Comb and/or brush.
    • Shaving supplies (unscented).
    • Eye glasses and case.
    • Dentures and container.
    • Hearing aid(s), case, and spare battery(s).
    • Walking aid(s) such as cane, walker or wheelchair.
    • If you have sleep apnea, your continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or dental device.

    Label your bag with your name. You might want to also label your belongings.

    Remember: The hospital is a public building. Valuables can go missing. Leave valuables at home. Send anything home that you are not using.

    The night before

    • Between dinner and midnight, eat a light snack or just drink some juice. We suggest around 8:00 p.m. 
    • If having bowel surgery and have done bowel preparation, only drink clear juice. No food.
    • If you have diabetes, follow the instructions given to you.
    • Snack examples include:
      • Bowl of yogurt and glass of juice.
      • Piece of toast or bowl of cereal and glass of juice.
      • Bowl of rice and glass of juice or juice of two to three cups (500 to 750 mLs).
    • Clean your skin as instructed by the Pre-Admission Clinic nurse.
    • If you did not get any specific instructions, take a shower or bath with soap and water tonight and in the morning. Wash your hair.
    • Do not put any products on your skin (such as lotion, make-up, cologne/perfume).
    • Put on clean pyjamas (bed clothes) and sleep in clean bedding sheets.
    • Do not eat any food after midnight.
    • You can continue to drink clear fluids up until four hours before your surgery time. 
    • Clear fluids: Liquids you can see through such as water and juices (apple, grape, cranberry). No milk products. No alcohol. No juices with pulp.

    Getting ready for my surgery guide for older children and teens 

    Download our guide to help you get ready for your upcoming surgery.

    Preparing your child for surgery 

    Download our guide to help you get your child ready for their upcoming surgery.

    Download our guide on chlorhexidine skin cleaning before joint replacement surgery to reduce your chances of getting an infection after surgery. Available in Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese and Punjabi.

  • How should I prepare for my Pre-Admission Clinic visit?

    This is a time where we review your general health and the medicines you take. You are also given instructions on how to get ready for your surgery and what to expect while in the hospital.

    Depending on the kind of surgery you are having and your overall health, you will either come in to the Pre-Admission Clinic or a nurse calls you on the telephone. Please bring the following:

    • Your BC Services Card / BC Care Card (personal health number).
    • Photo identification (such as a driver’s license).
    • Medications that you are currently taking in their original containers. This includes prescription medications, medicines you buy off the shelf in the pharmacy (or over the internet), vitamins, and herbal supplements.
    • A support person if you wish (to help you remember what is said).
    • An interpreter. If you don’t speak or understand English well enough for medical conversations, you can either bring someone with you as your interpreter or ask us to arrange a medical interpreter for your visit.

    During your visit, you meet with a nurse. You might also meet with an anesthesiologist who talks with you about any specific health concerns. The anesthesiologist is the doctor who gives the medicine that keeps you asleep and pain-free during the surgery. The anesthesiologist could also talk with you about options for managing your pain during surgery. You might have blood work or other tests done while at the hospital.

    If you have diabetes, you will get instructions during your Pre-Admission Clinic phone call or visit about when and what to eat and drink, and how to take your diabetes medicine before your surgery. 

  • What should I expect at my surgery?

    You are met by a nurse who:

    • Gives you a hospital gown to change into.
    • Asks you about your medications, allergies, and any reactions you have had to medications.
    • Checks your blood pressure, pulse, and temperature.
    • Starts an intravenous (IV for short: sounds like ‘eye-vee’) in one of your arms.
    • Gives you some medicine into your IV or for you to swallow. 

    You are moved to the pre-surgery holding area. In the pre-surgery holding area, you meet:

    • Nurses who will be working with your surgeon.
    • Anesthesiologist, who confirms your plan for anesthesia during surgery.
    • Surgeon, who marks the area or side being operated on using a special pen.

    Once in the Operating Room, we ask you to remove your glasses, dentures, and finally, your hearing aide(s). 

    We return them to you when you wake up in the Recovery Room after your surgery.

    You will be asked many times what your name is, what surgery you are having, where on your body you are having your surgery, and if you have any allergies. 


Preparing for surgery

Optimize your health and surroundings prior to your operation, what to expect while in hospital and how to best manage your recovery after returning home.

Patient's guide: Joint replacement

Understand your joint replacement surgery, the journey through the hospital, getting back on your feet and pain management.

Talking to your doctor about surgery

Talk to your surgeon and ask for a second opinion. Use our soonest surgery tool to find out if you can get your surgery performed sooner. 

Frequently asked questions

Understand more about your surgery by visiting our frequently asked questions section.


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