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What to Expect in the Pre-operative Holding Area

Preoperative Holding AreaWhat do I expect during the few hours before my surgery?
On the day of surgery, you may be asked to arrive several hours before your procedure is scheduled to begin. This allows the staff to complete any tests that cannot be performed until the day of surgery. You will be taken into an area where you will be asked to remove all of your clothing and jewelry and you will be given a hospital gown. This is sometimes called the Pre-Operative Holding Area. The staff will help secure your belongings, or have you give them to your family for safekeeping.

You may then sit in a recliner or wait on a stretcher. A nurse may have you sign any necessary paperwork. He or she will take vital signs, do a nursing assessment, and review your medications and the time you took them as well as answer any questions you may have. An Intravenous (I.V.) line will be placed in a vein in your hand or arm. The purpose of the I.V. is to provide fluid and medications during the operation. You must remove all hairpins, dentures, contact lens, glasses and bridgework, unless the nursing staff tells you that you can keep these items.

Will I be able to talk to my anesthesiologist before surgery?
Yes. You will meet your anesthesia provider, and other members of the team, before you go into the operating room. The anesthesia provider will examine you, review your medical and anesthesia history and the results of any tests you may have had done. The anesthesiologist will explain to you the type of anesthesia you will get, and will answer any further questions you may have. Depending on your health, the type of surgery and your personal wishes, the anesthesia provider and your surgeon will determine the type of anesthetic that is best for you.

Will I be asleep for my procedure?
There are several types of anesthetic techniques available for your surgery ranging from local to general anesthesia. 

  • General anesthesia may begin with medicine injected into your intravenous. You may also be given a mixture of anesthetic gases with oxygen to breathe. You will not be aware of the operation or your surroundings. A breathing tube may be placed into your windpipe to help you breathe during the operation. (This is why some patients may have a slight sore throat on the day after surgery).
  • Regional or spinal anesthesia is an injection that produces numbness around nerves in area near the surgical procedure. Epidural or spinal blocks help numb the abdomen and both lower extremities. Other nerve blocks may be done with the nerves in the arms or legs to numb them. With regional anesthesia, you should feel no pain. You may be awake or receive intravenous sedation to your comfort level.
  • Local anesthesia involves the use of a numbing medicine injected around the incision site. It produces a lack of feeling, or numbness, in that area only. The rest of the body is not affected. You will be awake but free from pain. The surgeon often administers this type of anesthetic, since only a small part of the body is affected.
  • Monitored Anesthesia Care uses both a local anesthetic at the incision site and medicine injected into the vein to relax you. This type of anesthesia does not require the use of a breathing tube. You will be awake after surgery is completed.

Will I get to speak with my surgeon?
Your surgeon will visit you before starting the surgery to ask you if you have any last minute questions and will use a special pen to mark the correct surgery site.

How does the staff keep me safe?
The operating room nurse will verify your identity, allergies, surgeon, correct surgery, and correct site before moving you into the operating room. All team members will be communicating specific information about your clinical status, including your current condition and recent treatments. This communication is designed to ensure a strong link for your patient care and your safety.

After I am checked in, how long do I wait for surgery?
Unavoidable delays may occur when a hospital emergency case is put ahead of yours or apatient before you has surgery that lasts longer than planned. It’s never easy to wait, so try to distract yourself by reading, watching television or using relaxation techniques. If there is a delay, your understanding is greatly appreciated.

Reprinted with permission by the American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (ASPAN). Copyright © 2010.
All rights reserved. ASPAN Patient Information. Available at: www.aspan.org.