Preparing for your surgery - 10 steps

Major surgery is physically very demanding and you should prepare for this and help promote your recovery by getting as fit and healthy as possible. The following guide will help you to prepare well for your surgery.


Starting now:

    1. Make your home smoke-free. Tobacco smokers are at significantly higher risk than non-smokers of post-surgical complications. Do not smoke or use any form of tobacco. Doing this will reduce your risk of heart, lung and wound complications after surgery. Your GP or local pharmacist can help you to stop smoking and prescribe therapy to support you. Or you can call your local stop smoking service and speak with a friendly advisor on: 01786-433293.
    2. Be physically active in everyday life. Limit the time you spend sitting. Refer to page 26 and your accompanying information booklet ‘Get fit for your surgery/treatment’ for more information about being more physically active.
    3. Practice deep breathing exercises prior to surgery. You will be sent an incentive spirometer to assist with your breathing. Please bring your incentive spirometer with you when you come into hospital.
    4. Eat a healthy diet and take action to be a healthy weight.
    5. Cut back on how much alcohol you drink. Men and women should consume no more than 14 units of alcohol per week and have 2 to 3 days alcohol free per week. Do not drink any alcohol 24 hours before surgery.
    6. Sleep hygiene. A good night’s sleep is key for your overall health, wellbeing and immune system. For more ideas about what you can do to give you the best chance of a good night’s sleep, click on this link.
    7. Surgery can be a stressful time and you may find these links helpful.
    8. Plan ahead: make sure you have everything ready for when you return home. You will need a few weeks to recuperate so make sure you have meals organised, shopping done, cleaning and laundry up to date, particularly if you live alone.
    9. Discharge from hospital is typically 2 -5 days. Make sure you have transport from hospital to home organised.
    10. Watch this 10 minute video clip to help you be ready and fitter for your surgery - Or download the PDF.


Fitter Better Sooner

Coronavirus FAQ


Incentive spirometer

An incentive spirometer can assist with your breathing - using the incentive spirometer will help improve your lung function. In addition, good oral hygiene, sitting up after surgery and getting up out of bed as soon as you can will help prevent pneumonia.

Below is a picture of an incentive spirometer:

Incentive Spirometer

This is known as ICOUGH. To see a short film clip about the incentive spirometer please watch this video.

Diet and nutrition

  • eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, pulses and small portions of whole grains.
  • avoid processed foods, especially those high in sugar and refined carbohydrates (eg cakes, biscuits, sweets, sugary drinks, white bread and white pasta. Whole meal is better).
  • avoid processed meats, limit red meats and foods high in salt.
  • for more information and support please go to the Choose to Lose website.

Eatwell Guide

If there is a concern that you are undernourished, nutritional support (sometimes with supplements) will be provided.

Helpful links

  • Access a range of free self-help guides on a wide range of commonly experienced mental health issues and difficulties.
  • Breathing and relaxation exercises.
  • Tell someone how you are feeling. Contact your GP practice (08.00 am - 18.00 pm week days). NHS 24 on 111 (18.00 pm - 08.00 am weekdays and 24 hours at weekends).
  • Breathing Space provide a free confidential phone and web based service. Call free on 0800 33 35 37 (open Monday to Thursday 18.00 pm to 02.00 am, 24 hours over the weekend. Online chat also available).
  • Samaritans provide 24 hour emotional support. Call free on 116 123 (open 24/7).