A patient’s view
Going into hospital
Preparation for surgery
Different hospitals will give varying amounts of notice for surgery; for some it could be as little as two to four weeks. When the date for surgery is given, it is important, therefore, to be prepared (see section on hints and tips).
The aim of the Pre-operative Assessment Clinic is to ensure that patients are fit for their proposed surgery and adequately prepared for their admission to hospital.
Your pre-op assessment will be about 2 weeks prior to your surgery. This appointment may last a few hours as there are a number of tests and assessments to complete – blood tests, ECG, X-ray, medical photography, anaesthetic assessment. A nurse will also be filling in all the forms necessary for your hospital stay and you will have chance to talk to her about anything concerning you. You should take with you a list of any medications you are currently prescribed and be able to give her details of previous surgery and current medical conditions. Next of kin details will also be necessary.
Your admission papers will tell you when and where to present. For some patients (usually dependent on the type of surgery) admission will be on the same day. However, for the more technical surgeries, those requiring further anaesthetic considerations and those requiring more tests, it is usual to be admitted the day before. Hospitals are frequently running at full capacity so you may be shown to a waiting area until your bed is allocated. A nurse will be assigned to you on admission – please do not hesitate to ask questions about anything concerning you.
It is usual for each ward to have set visiting times. Please adhere to these wherever possible – this makes for good patient care and helps with infection control. Please ask the nurse-in-charge if you have a problem with the visiting times.
Going to theatre
On the day of surgery, you will be told at what time you should stop eating and drinking – for morning cases this will be from midnight, with clear fluids until about 5am; for afternoon cases this will be from a light early breakfast with clear fluids until 11am.
Each hospital will have a routine which will be explained to you by your nursing/medical team. For some this will include skin preparation which will be in the form of a wash/lotion (this may have been given to you at pre-assessment, together with instructions for use). If the surgeon has marked your skin for surgery, do not wash these marks off. You may be required to wear anti-embolism socks too and you may also be given a small injection daily which will help to prevent blood clots. These will stop once you are discharged (unless there is a medical need).
Make sure to give any valuables to the person who takes you to your surgery.
Following your procedure, you may spend a while in the Recovery Suite, after which you will be taken to the ward where you will spend the next few days until you are discharged. It is a good idea to restrict your visitors for the first few days as you will be tired and you will need this time to help you heal and get over your operation. Visitors are well-meaning, but can be very tiring and you can make good “use” of them once you go home – to help with making tea, shopping, cleaning and so on!!!
The type of surgery you have had will determine whether you have an intravenous infusion (drip) post-operatively; you will almost certainly have drains to your wounds which will be removed once they are draining minimal amounts of fluid. You will be expected to get out of bed and move around at the earliest opportunity and you may be visited by the physiotherapist who will instruct you on breathing exercises and other exercises specific to your operation. Pain relief will be given as required. Eating and drinking are encouraged and you should tell the nurse if you are having problems with your bowels.
Your Breast Reconstruction Nurse or Breast Care Nurse may visit you during your hospital stay. Discharge information, including any hospital appointments, will be given to you before you go home. The branch of Keeping Abreast in your area may be able to offer help post-operatively. If you do not have a branch close to you, please contact Keeping Abreast via this website www.keepingabreast.org.uk or on 01603 819113 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org to find out what help can be offered.
Keeping Abreast has a number of groups across the country that have volunteers ready to offer you advice and information so that you can make an informed choice about whether to have reconstruction and the types available to you. To find someone to talk to visit our Support Groups page.