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What happens when you are admitted into hospital?

Some hospitals have pre-admission clinics where routine observations and investigations are carried out before surgery. This may mean an appointment at the hospital a week or so before your operation. The staff also gives you information about your type of surgery.

Depending on your age and general health, investigations like blood tests, x-rays, scans, ECGs and lung function tests may be performed. They provide the anaesthetist with information about how your heart and lungs will cope with the effects of the anaesthetic drugs.

Most hospitals admit patients on the day of the operation unless special preparations are required, for example before bowel surgery.

All patients are asked to fast before a general anaesthetic. When the person is unconscious and the bowel muscles relax under the effects of the anaesthetic drugs, undigested foods and fluids can flow back up the throat and be inhaled into the lungs. Fasting prevents this from happening.

As it is quite normal to feel tense and anxious before your surgery, you may be offered a sleeping tablet the night before surgery if you are already admitted and a sedative or other drugs an hour or so before the operation. These drugs are called ‘pre-medications’ because they are administered before the anaesthetic to help you relax and possibly enhance the effects of the anaesthetic drugs.

Deep breathing exercises and simple leg and ankle exercises are also taught to help blood circulation and prevent the formation of clots and you will be encouraged to practise these as often as possible

If you have difficulty with breathing due to a history of asthma or problems with movement due to arthritis, the doctor may refer you on to a physiotherapist.


What does it mean to sign the consent form?
The consent form is a legal document which testifies that you:

have understood the information provided about your surgery
are satisfied with the information the doctor has provided you
are willing to go through the operation and have the anaesthetic recommended, being aware of the risks involved.
There is a clause in the consent form that allows the doctors involved to make immediate decisions in case of an unexpected complication during the operation.

Make sure that you read the consent form carefully and are sure of what you are asked to sign. If you have any questions about the format or meaning of the words do not hesitate to ask the doctor or nursing staff for an explanation.


Before you go into the operating theatre
You will be requested to take a bath or shower a few hours before surgery and the area to be treated may need to be shaved to ensure the skin is thoroughly cleaned before the operation.

Metal ornaments like jewellery and hair clips can react with the electrical equipment used in theatre so you are requested to remove these.

While you are under anaesthetic the colour of your skin and nails are checked for indications of healthy blood flow. As make up and nail varnish disguise your natural colouring you are asked to remove them.

You are advised to remove contact lenses to avoid scratching the cornea when your eyes dry out under the effects of the anaesthetic drugs. Hearing aids need to be removed.

When you come out of the operating theatre
Immediately after major surgery under general anaesthetic you are observed for a period of time in the recovery room until you regain consciousness.

After particular surgical procedures you may find yourself attached to various kinds of tubes. Most of these tubes are inserted while you are under anaesthetic. For example:

Oxygen may be delivered through tubing attached to a mask to help you breathe.
An intravenous infusion or drip may provide your body with the fluid it requires if you are unable to eat or drink.
A catheter may be temporarily inserted into the bladder to drain away urine so you do not have the discomfort of using bedpans in the immediate post-operative period. Urine drains into a container by the bed.
Wound drains are attached to tubes that drain away the fluid and blood from the wound. This prevents swelling and pain around the wound.
You should have this explained to you prior to your procedure.

If after surgery you need to go on a respirator (a machine to help breathing), you may go into an intensive care or high dependency unit for a short period. If you need closer observation as well as more frequent temperature, pulse and blood pressure readings you may be admitted into these units.