Tests and visits before surgery
Your surgeon will want to make sure you are ready for your surgery. To do this, you will have some checkups and tests before surgery.
Many different people on your surgery team may ask you the same questions before your surgery. This is because your team needs to gather as much information as they can to give you the best surgery results. Try to be patient if you are asked the same questions more than once.
Pre-op is the time before your surgery. It means "before operation." During this time, you will meet with one of your doctors. This may be your surgeon or primary care doctor:
- This checkup usually needs to be done within the month before surgery. This gives your doctors time to treat any medical problems you may have before your surgery.
- During this visit, you will be asked about your health over the years. This is called "taking your medical history." Your doctor will also do a physical exam.
- If you see your primary care doctor for your pre-op checkup, make sure your hospital or surgeon gets the reports from this visit.
Some hospitals also ask you to have a phone conversation or meet with an anesthesia pre-op nurse before surgery to discuss your health.
You may also see your anesthesiologist the week before surgery. This doctor will give you medicine that will make you sleep and not feel pain during surgery.
Visits With Other Doctors
Your surgeon will want to make sure that other health conditions you may have will not cause problems during your surgery. So you may need to visit:
- A heart doctor (cardiologist), if you have a history of heart problems or if you smoke heavily, have high blood pressure or diabetes, or are out of shape and cannot walk up a flight of stairs.
- A diabetes doctor (endocrinologist), if you have diabetes or if your blood sugar test in your pre-op visit was high.
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- A sleep doctor, if you have obstructive sleep apnea, which causes choking or a stop in breathing when you are asleep.
- A doctor who treats blood disorders (hematologist), if you've had blood clots in the past or you have close relatives who have had blood clots.
- Your primary care provider for a review of your health problems, exam, and any tests needed before surgery.
Tests Before Surgery
Your surgeon may tell you that you need some tests before surgery. Some tests are for all surgical patients. Others are done only if you are at risk for certain health conditions.
Common tests that your surgeon may ask you to have if you have not had them recently are:
- Blood tests such as a complete blood count (CBC) and kidney, liver, and blood sugar tests
- Chest x-ray to check your lungs
- ECG (electrocardiogram) to check your heart
Some doctors or surgeons may also ask you to have other tests. This depends on:
- Your age and general health
- Health risks or problems you may have
- The type of surgery you are having
These other tests may include:
- Tests that look at the lining of your bowels or stomach, such as a colonoscopy or upper endoscopy
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- Heart stress test or other heart tests
- Lung function tests
- Imaging tests, such as an MRI scan, CT scan, or ultrasound test
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Make sure the doctors who do your pre-op tests send the results to your surgeon. This helps keep your surgery from being delayed.
Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, General Surgery Practice Specializing in Breast Cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
Levett DZ, Edwards M, Grocott M, Mythen M. Preparing the patient for surgery to improve outcomes. Best Pract Res Clin Anaesthesiol. 2016;30(2):145-157. PMID: 27396803 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28687213/.
Sandberg WS, Dmochowski R, Beauchamp RD. Safety in the surgical environment. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 9.