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Tests and visits before surgery

Your surgeon will want to make sure you are ready for your surgery. To do this, you will have some checkups and tests before surgery.

Many different people on your surgery team may ask you the same questions before your surgery. This is because your team needs to have as much information as they can gather in order to give you the best surgery results. Try to be patient if you are asked the same questions more than once.

Pre-op checkup

Pre-op is the time before your surgery. It means "before operation." During this time, you will meet with one of your doctors. This may be your surgeon or primary care doctor:

  • This checkup usually needs to be done within the month before surgery. This gives your doctors time to treat any medical problems you may have before your surgery.
  • During this visit, you will be asked about your health over the years. This is called "taking your medical history." Your doctor will also do a physical exam.
  • If you see your primary care doctor for your pre-op checkup, make sure your hospital or surgeon gets the reports from this visit.

Some hospitals also ask you to meet with a hospital nurse during the week before surgery. At this visit:

  • The nurse will ask you many questions about your health.
  • You may also have a chest x-ray, blood tests, or an electrocardiogram (ECG) during this visit. An ECG is a painless test that checks your heart.

You may also see your anesthesiologist the week before surgery. This is the doctor who will give you medicine that will make you sleep and not feel pain during surgery.

Visits with other doctors

Your surgeon will want to make sure that other health conditions you may have will not cause problems during your surgery. So you may need to visit:

  • A heart doctor (cardiologist), if you are older than 55, have a history of heart problems (or you have a family member with heart problems), smoke heavily, have high blood pressure or diabetes, or are out of shape and cannot walk up a flight of stairs.
  • A diabetes doctor (endocrinologist), if you have diabetes or if your blood sugar test in your pre-op visit was high.
  • A sleep doctor, if you have obstructive sleep apnea, which causes choking or a stop in breathing when you are asleep.
  • A doctor who treats blood disorders (hematologist), if you've had blood clots in the past or you have close relatives who have had blood clots.

Tests before surgery

Your surgeon may tell you that you need some tests before surgery. Some tests are for all surgical patients. Others are done only if you are at risk of certain health conditions.

Common tests that your surgeon may ask you to have if you have not had them recently are:

Some doctors or surgeons may also ask you to have other tests. This depends on:

  • Your age and general health
  • Health risks or problems you may have
  • The type of surgery you are having

These other tests may include:

Make sure the doctors who do your pre-op tests send the results to your surgeon. This helps keep your surgery from being delayed.

References

Beauchamp RD, Higgins MS. Perioperative patient safety. In: Townsend CM, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 10.

Update Date: 4/9/2014

Updated by: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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