Before Your Surgery and Anesthesia

Planning for Your Surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital

If you are scheduled for a procedure, please refer to information provided by the physician performing the procedure for details about arrival, diet and medication guidelines, and discharge timing. If the following information differs from the information your care team provided, follow your care team’s instructions.

If you are getting ready for surgery, below are steps you need to be aware of.

The day before your surgery, or on Friday if your surgery is on Monday, a preoperative nurse will call you between 2 and 5 pm to discuss:

  • Arrival time and place, and estimated surgery time
  • Diet and medication guidelines, or reminders before your surgery
  • Discharge timing or if you require a hospital stay

If you do not receive a call by 5 pm, missed the call or would like to talk with the pre-op nurse, please call the surgical unit before 7 pm:

  • Feinberg Pavilion: 312.926.5450
  • Prentice Women’s Hospital: 312.472.0610
  • Lavin Family Pavilion Suite 1100 (Ophthalmology, Otolaryngology, General Surgery): 312.472.5044
  • Lavin Family Pavilion Suite 1200 (Orthopedic Surgery, Spine Surgery): 312.472.5779
  • TTY for all locations: 711

Be sure to follow the instructions you received from your surgeon or the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Preoperative Clinic about when to stop eating and drinking. We recommend you stop eating solid foods after midnight prior to your surgery/procedure and stop taking clear liquids 2 hours before your designated arrival time. For more detailed information, please refer to our guidelines, "What to Eat or Drink Before Surgery."

We recommend that you make every effort to stop smoking well before your surgery, and remain smoke-free for at least 1 week following your procedure. Smoking increases your risk for complications from your surgery, such as wound infection, pneumonia and heart attack. The sooner you stop smoking, the better your chances of a smooth recovery.

Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. Many resources are available to help you quit at no cost. Talk to your physician about your options.

  • A current list of all medications, including over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements
  • A copy of recent test or physical exam reports
  • A list of any surgeries you have had, noting any problems you may have had with anesthesia
  • Your CPAP device if you use one

Do not bring any valuables (jewelry, credit cards, money). This includes body-piercing jewelry and tongue studs. You may not wear any jewelry during surgery.

If you are scheduled to have anesthesia, please arrange to have an adult age 18 or older take you home after surgery. It isn't safe for you to leave the hospital by yourself or to drive yourself home even though you might feel awake. If you have only local anesthesia, you may be able to leave the hospital on your own, but please check with your physician first.

Plan to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that will fit over bandages, surgical dressing and splints.

Your medications may affect your surgery and anesthesia. Most medications should be taken on your usual schedule up until the day before your surgery. Be sure to follow the instructions you received from your surgeon or the Northwestern Memorial Hospital Preoperative Clinic about which medications to take.

Some medications require special consideration, especially on the day of your surgery or procedure. It is important the physician who prescribes your medications talks directly with your surgeon or the physician who will perform your procedure. You may also schedule an appointment with our Preoperative clinic providers who will review your medical history and provide medication instructions.

Please bring a list of all of your medications with you when you come to the hospital.

Herbal medications can interfere with anesthesia. Also, some herbal medications increase the risk of bleeding during surgery. We recommend you stop taking all herbal medications at least 7 days before your surgery or procedure.

For your safety, carefully follow instructions about eating or drinking before surgery. These instructions are designed to prevent food or liquid from getting into your lungs while you are under anesthesia. If you do not follow these instructions, we may need to delay or cancel your procedure.

Staying hydrated is important. You may have clear liquids up to 2 hours before your arrival time at the hospital

Clear liquids include:

  • Water
  • Clear fruit juices, such as apple juice and white cranberry juice (no pulp)
  • Plain tea or black coffee (no milk or creamer)
  • Clear, electrolyte-replenishing drinks such as Pedialyte®, Gatorade® or Powerade® (no yogurt or smoothies)

Please stop eating solid foods, and all other beverages/drinks, after midnight prior to your surgery/procedure.

Certain operations and procedures may require special dietary instructions. You may receive separate instructions from your surgeon or the physician performing the procedure. Please follow those instructions and contact your surgeon’s office with specific questions.