Preparing for surgery

Once you have decided you will have surgery, it is important to make sure you are as healthy as you can be for the day of your surgery and to help in your recovery.

Surgery places stress on your body. If you are as healthy as you can be before your surgery, you are less likely to experience complications.

Watch this video to learn about how to get healthy before surgery. This video was created by the St George Hospital Optimisation for Surgery Group.

You can get healthy by:

  • staying active and regularly exercising 
  • eating a balanced healthy diet
  • minimising alcohol
  • stopping smoking.

The Get Healthy Service can provide you with free personal health coaching via phone: 1300 806 258 or online. 

When you first decide to have surgery, visit your local doctor (GP) and give them this letter. They will help with any routine check-ups and manage any health conditions you have, such as heart disease or diabetes. Your GP can help you to quit smoking/vaping or reduce your alcohol consumption.

Your GP may also need to screen for anaemia (low blood count) or breathing problems such as sleep apnoea. If you do have these conditions, starting some treatment prior to your surgery will help you avoid complications.

    You may need to have an appointment at our hospital before your surgery to make sure you are prepared. We will contact you by letter or telephone if you need to come in to one of our pre-admission clinics before your surgery.

    There are different types of pre-admission clinics, you might need to visit more than one. Our pre-admission clinics include: 

    Surgical Pre-Admission Clinic

    If you go to a Surgical Pre-Admission Clinic, you will see a doctor on the surgical team, and possibly other care staff too.  The surgical pre-admission clinics are usually in Outpatients Department, Level 2, Campus Centre (building 16 on our campus map).

    Anaesthetic Pre-Evaluation Clinic (APEC)

    You may need to attend the APEC, particularly if you are having a big operation or have certain medical conditions. APEC is in the Perioperative Unit, Level 1, Dickinson Building (building 15 on the campus map).

    At your clinic appointment you may see a nurse, anaesthetist, physiotherapist or the surgical team and they may arrange some tests. They will provide you with information on how to prepare for your surgery and/or discuss your care when you leave hospital. 

    When you come to a clinic, please bring a list of your current medications, and any specialist letters, results or other health information that you have.

    Please let us know if you need an interpreter.

    Physiotherapy can help improve your movement and function and reduce risks of injury or complications from surgery.

    A physiotherapist may meet with you before your surgery. They will check your movement and function and provide you exercises that will help:

    • increase your fitness and strength before your surgery
    • prevent chest infections and pneumonia
    • get your body moving and functioning again after surgery
    • support your wound when you need to cough or move
    • prevent blood clots.

    Read our Physiotherapy Guide for people having major abdominal (tummy) surgery. These exercises are also useful for people who are having other types of surgery.

    This video demonstrates how to do important exercises that will support your recovery from abdominal surgery.  

    If you are an older patient, you can have a higher risk of developing confusion and other complications after surgery. This risk is more significant when having major surgery.

    Our hospital has the Care for Older Patients in Surgery (COPS) service. If our doctors think this service is suitable for you, they will work with you to minimise your risks before, during and after surgery. 

    Smoking, vaping or chewing tobacco can increase your risk of complications after surgery including infection and breathing problems. We encourage all patients to quit as early as possible prior to surgery. It’s never too late to quit – every day helps.

    See your GP, contact I Can Quit (Quitline) for more support.

    Anaemia (low blood count)

    It is important to prevent and treat anaemia in the months leading up to surgery. See your GP as early as possible to get tested and treated for anaemia, particularly if you are having moderate or major surgery. This can reduce your chance of needing a blood transfusion or developing complications after your surgery. 

    Sleep Apnoea

    Sleep apnoea is a breathing condition that is a part of a group of breathing conditions called sleep disordered breathing (SDB).  People who have SDB are more likely to have complications during or after surgery.  Medical treatments for SDB can reduce these risks.  Risk factors for having SDB include age over 50, high blood pressure, obesity and snoring. See your GP to discuss your risk of having SDB. 

    Patients having certain operations will be advised to do a disinfectant wash before surgery. If you have been advised to do this wash, follow these instructions.

    For other operations we will swab your skin to see if you have a bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics. This bacteria might be Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) or Methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus Aureus (MSSA). The Doctor might call it a staph infection. If you have this bacteria on your skin you will need to do a more thorough wash. You will be asked to follow these instructions. Our nursing staff will call you to discuss other things you will need to do to minimise infection.    

    If you have not been advised to do any special washes, you don’t need to worry about these instructions.