Expert Health Articles

Preparing for Elective Surgery

When an elective surgery is scheduled, you will be contacted to set up a pre-surgery health interview. This process is important to make sure you are properly prepared and informed for the upcoming surgery. This interview can be done in person or by phone. This type of screening was implemented many years ago to improve patient care before and after surgical procedures. A thorough medical history taken in advance for the anesthesiologist and surgeon can lead to better outcomes with less complications after surgery and fewer cancellations on the day of surgery.


Many of the questions asked by the Registered Nurse during the thorough medical history is important information needed for the anesthesiologist to be able to reduce the risks of pre-existing condition problems during or after surgery. The nurse not only completes the medical history but also evaluates if a patient has stopped necessary medications such as blood thinners or over the counter medication as appropriate and had all of the required pre-admission testing and medical/cardiac clearances before surgery. Most information gathered by the nurse is discussed with the anesthesiologist in preparation for surgery. However, if necessary, an anesthesia consult will be scheduled.


A common question asked when the nurse calls to complete the pre-surgery interview is, "Why do I have to answer these questions again, it should already be in the computer?" Unfortunately, not every physician office and hospital uses the same computer system. Therefore, your information can sometimes only be found at another facility or physician office, not in the same network. Also, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy laws require a facility to only request information needed for continuity of care. It is important to remember that you are in charge of your health and need to make sure all healthcare personnel are aware of any health problems for a successful procedure or surgery.


You can be prepared for the health interview by having the following items available: brochure/instruction sheets given at the surgeon's office, current prescription and over the counter medication in original bottles from the pharmacy, knowledge of any heart tests done in the past few years such as electrocardiograms (EKGs), echocardiograms, heart stress test, or heart catheterization, and completed advanced directives such as a living will, durable power of attorney for healthcare or do not resuscitate (if you have any of these documents). The pre-operative interview is a perfect time to confirm the date and time of the procedure, time of arrival and answer any further questions. This appointment will allow the nurse to provide all pre-operative instructions about fasting, antibacterial soaps to use for bathing/showering prior to surgery and the special do's and don'ts to follow before and on the day of surgery. Remember, the pre-surgery screening nurse will be available as a resource for you to call if there are any questions.


Peggy Robinette, RN

Lisa Butler, RN

Maura Mathias, RN

Pre Surgical Screening

Blanchard Valley Hospital