On the day

Your admission letter from the hospital will tell you the date and time of your operation, and what time you need to arrive.

It should also tell you which ward or department you're going to be in, the hospital or ward's contact number, and the name of the consultant who'll be taking care of you.

When you arrive, you'll be welcomed by a member of staff, who'll explain the processes to you and give you an identity bracelet to wear during your stay in hospital.

During your time in hospital, you may be asked the same questions by several people. This is routine, and ensures that correct information about you is checked and available at each stage of treatment.

You may want to ask some questions of your own, such as:

  • What happens before the operation?
  • Why do I have to wear the surgical stockings?
  • What will I feel like after the operation?
  • How long will the effects of the anaesthetic last?
  • How will my pain be managed after the surgery?
  • What should I do, and who should I tell, if I'm in pain?
  • What are the visiting arrangements?
  • Will I return to the same ward after the surgery?
  • When will I see the consultant?
  • When can I expect to go home after the operation?
  • When will I be told about any results of samples taken?


Take any medicines your doctor asked you to take before surgery. But if you normally take tablets or insulin for diabetes, make sure you discuss this with your specialist as soon as possible before your operation.

You'll be asked whether you're allergic to any medication, or whether any relatives have ever had any problems with an anaesthetic, so suitable precautions can be taken.


Family or friends can usually stay with you until you leave for the operating theatre, at which point they can wait for you in the waiting room.

Check your hospital's policy on visiting times, and read more about visiting someone in hospital.

Just before the operation

You'll be asked to get undressed and change into a hospital gown. The details of the operation will be explained to you.

For many operations, a needle connected to a drip will be put into your hand. This allows fluids, nourishment and medicine to be given while you're under anaesthetic.


You'll be given an anaesthetic so you won't feel any pain during the operation.

A general anaesthetic will be needed for a major operation, which means you'll be asleep throughout the whole operation. It'll be given to you via an injection or gas, which you breathe through a mask.

There's no need to be anxious about having a general anaesthetic: the anaesthetist will be by your side the whole time you're asleep, carefully monitoring you, and will be there when you wake up.

If you don't need to be put to sleep, you'll be given a regional anaesthetic. This means you'll be conscious throughout, but you won't feel any pain.

It may be a local anaesthetic, where a small area is numbed, or an epidural, which reduces sensation in the lower areas of your body.

Page last reviewed: 07/02/2018
Next review due: 07/02/2021