Preparing for plastic surgery

Preparing for plastic surgery: what happens before and after surgery?

Preparing for surgery can be nerve-wracking - but you’re in very good hands at the Royal Free Hospital. Here are the key stages that patients go through before and after surgery; from preparing for surgery to recovery after surgery.

Preparing for plastic surgery

Step 1: Fasting before surgery

On the day of your plastic surgery you will have to fast before surgery for a minimum of six hours so that your stomach is empty to reduce the risk of complications.

Step 2: Seeing your plastic surgeon and anaesthetist

You will be seen by your Royal Free London plastic surgeon either the night before surgery or on the day. It may be necessary to mark some lines on you while you are awake. Marking is extremely important for two reasons. First, a mark may be used to identify the correct side for plastic surgery. Second, it might be necessary to mark you so that points on your body can be easily identified when you are asleep.

You will also be seen by the anaesthetist, if appropriate. He or she is responsible for putting you to sleep before surgery, looking after your vital functions during the operation, and making sure you have no issues with you anaesthetic.

Step 3: Getting into your hospital gown

You will be asked to change into a hospital gown before you go to the operating theatre and to remove all make-up and cosmetic fittings, like earrings.

Step 4: Going to the operating theatre

When it is time to go to the operating theatre a theatre porter will collect you and take you to theatre. You will be moved first to reception where your details will be checked with a nurse. After this is done you will be taken to the anaesthetic room where you will see the anaesthetist again. Further checks are done and finally you will be ready to go to sleep, if you are having a general anaesthetic.

Step 5: Going to sleep (for general anaesthetic patients)

To put you to sleep, if you need to have a general anaesthetic, a small needle will be placed into a vein and you will also be asked to breathe oxygen through an oxygen mask, the next thing you will know you will be back on the ward.

Recovery after your plastic surgery

Step 1: Waking up in the recovery room

After your operation you will be moved to the recovery room and closely monitored until you are awake enough to go back to the ward. Visitors should be asked to call the recovery room to see if you are awake as patients take varying amounts of time to waken from sleep.

Step 2: Controlling pain after surgery

A certain amount of pain is inevitable after surgery, but there are very good ways of controlling pain after plastic surgery, which usually involve drugs for pain relief and control – called analgesics.
You will be surprised how quickly the discomfort goes following surgery: nausea and sickness are also well controlled by the pain control and the analgesics we use.

Step 3: Tubes, surgical drains and oxygen masks

When you wake up after surgery you might find a collection of various different tubes and lines. These will vary depending on your plastic surgery procedure but as a general rule everyone will find a small clear breathing mask on when they wake up. This oxygen mask administers a high concentration of oxygen to help your lungs. It is also very common to find an intravenous line attached to a clear long tube with a bag of fluid at the end running. 

Less commonly it may be necessary to place surgical drains at the site of surgery to remove any excess fluid that accumulates following an operation. 

The last tube that you might find is called a catheter. It sits inside the bladder and collects urine. You will be usually fitted with a catheter after major surgery, which enables you to rest in bed and enables us to monitor the amount of urine made by the kidneys very accurately. 

Step 4: Your recovery

As a general rule we try to get people up and out of bed as soon as possible following plastic surgery. The risk of complications is reduced if we get you back to normal quickly so you’ll be up and about sooner than you think.

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