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What to Expect at Your Pre-Op Appointment

I just got back home from my pre-op appointment at the hospital where I am scheduled to have surgery next week. I'd been through a couple of others in the past, and I went through one with my daughter before she had a procedure on her heart a few years ago, so I knew pretty well what to expect. If you are scheduled for surgery, you may have to do a pre-op appointment at the same hospital where the procedure will be done. Surgery can be a frightening experience, and the thought of a pre-op appointment may make you nervous, but it's not so bad. Here's what you can expect, based on my experiences.

Paperwork in bulk

Much of your pre-op appointment will be taken up with paperwork. You'll be asked your name, birth date, Social Security number, address, phone number, place of work, and religious affiliation. You'll be asked the same questions about your spouse, if you are married, and at least the name and phone number of your next of kin.

Make sure you bring along your ID and your insurance card, as the hospital will need to make copies.

You will also be asked a myriad of questions about your health, your history, and your habits. Bring a list of the medications you are taking, along with the dosages, and if you have your medical history written down, bring that too. That way you won't forget the procedures you've had before or the name of the yellow pill you take at night.

Do you have an advance directive?

One question you will be asked that might throw you off guard, especially if you are a younger patient, is, "Do you have an advance directive or living will?" An advance directive tells your doctor what care you prefer if you aren't able to make medical decisions. If you don't have to have an advance directive but you want one, the hospital can provide you with a simple form and explain how to fill it out. You can also find comprehensive forms and instructions for each state online through the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Pre-op testing

You may need to have an EKG done prior to your surgery, to make sure your heart is in good working condition. The hospital will also probably record your height, weight, blood pressure, and pulse oximetry. These are all simple, non-invasive tests. Further tests may be required based on your conditions.

Finally, the hospital will likely have you give a urine sample and they'll take some blood samples. One thing they'll be checking is your blood type, in case you need a blood transfusion during your procedure. You will be asked to fill out one more form to indicate whether you authorize a transfusion if needed.

How long does this all take?

My pre-op appointment this time only took about an hour, but I got lucky. There was a sign at the check-in desk that said pre-op appointments may take two to three hours. In the past, at other hospitals, pre-op appointments have taken as much as four hours or more. Ask the hospital how much time to realistically plan for your appointment.

I also suggest asking whether you will need to fast before they take blood or urine samples. If so, try to schedule your appointment early in the day. If you are diabetic, ask the doctor or nurse to do those tests first so you can eat something sooner. If fasting samples are not needed, go ahead and eat before your appointment so you aren't starving and grumpy while you wait. You'll be glad you did.

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