The night before your surgery - orthopedic

You have spent weeks going to appointments, preparing your home, and getting healthy before surgery. Now it is time for surgery. You may feel relieved or nervous to be at this point.

However, taking care of a few last-minute details can help make your surgery more successful.


Two weeks before surgery you were told to stop taking drugs that make it harder for your blood to clot. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), and other drugs.

You should take only the medicines your doctor told you to take before surgery. This includes prescription medicines. If you are confused about which medicines to take the night before or the day of surgery, call your doctor.

Do not take any supplements, herbs, vitamins, or minerals before surgery unless your doctor said it was okay.

Bring a list of all your medicines to the hospital. Include the ones that you were told to stop taking before surgery. Make sure you write down the dosage and how often you take them.

Washing Your Skin

You may take a shower or bath both the night before and the morning of surgery.

Your doctor or nurse may give you a special medicated soap to use. Look for instructions for how to use this soap. If no one gave you special soap, use Dial or another antibacterial soap you can buy at the store.

It is important that you do not shave the area over or around where your surgery will take place in. The doctors or nurses will do that at the hospital.

Scrub your nails with a brush. It is best if you remove nail polish and makeup before you go to the hospital.

Eating and Drinking Before Surgery

Most of the time, you will be asked not to eat or drink after midnight. This usually means avoiding both solid foods and liquids.

You may brush your teeth and rinse your mouth in the morning. If you were told to take any medicine on the morning of surgery, you may it them with a sip of water.

Symptoms to Report

Rarely, you may have symptoms that your surgeon needs to know beforehand.

  • Any new skin rashes or skin infections (including herpes)
  • Cold symptoms or cough
  • Fever
  • Chest pain or shortness of breath

What Should You Pack

Clothing items:

  • Flat walking shoes with rubber or crepe on the bottom
  • Shorts or sweatpants and a T-shirt
  • Lightweight bath robe
  • Clothes to wear when you go home (sweatsuit or something easy to put on and take off)

You should bring your crutches, cane, or walker to the hospital.

Personal care items:

  • Bring eyeglasses instead of contact lenses if at all possible.
  • Bring a toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant.
  • Bring a razor (electric only).

Other items may include:

  • A small amount of money
  • Books, magazines
  • Important telephone numbers of friends and relatives

Alternate Names

Knee joint replacement - before surgery; Hip joint replacement - before surgery

Update Date: 8/12/2011

Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, and Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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