10 Things to Tell Your Surgeon Before Surgery

When planning a surgery it is important to find out as much information as you can from your surgeon, but it is also essential that you give your surgeon all of the information needed to make your surgery as safe as possible. Here are ten things you absolutely must discuss with your surgeon in order to have a safe and healthy outcome.


Medications: Prescription, Over the Counter, and Supplements

Surgeon looking away from camera in OR

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Your surgeon needs to know about all of the medications you are taking, including prescription, non-prescription drugs, herbal supplements, and vitamins. Supplements are often overlooked when listing current medications, but it is very important that the surgeon is aware of any supplements as they can interact with anesthesia and may increase bleeding.


Smoking Habits

Patients should be sure to notify their surgeon if they smoke or have smoked in the past. Some smokers require more time to be taken off of the ventilator and supplemental oxygen once they are breathing on their own. Smoking can also impair wound healing and cause greater scarring than non-smokers experience.


Alcohol Intake

It is essential that patients are candid about the amount of alcohol they consume. Patients who are dependent upon alcohol can have issues ranging from tremors to seizures as they begin to experience withdrawal. If the surgeon is aware that the patient is chemically dependent upon alcohol they can prescribe medications that will relieve the symptoms and prevent some of the more serious complications.

Patients who are dependent on alcohol may also have difficulty with pain control, as they are typically less sensitive to pain medication and require larger doses. If the surgeon is unaware of the alcohol use, the prescribed dosage may be inadequate.


Previous Illnesses and Surgeries

Surgeries leave scars, both internal and external, and can change surgeries that follow. A surgeon should be well aware of any previous surgeries, especially those that take place in the same region of the body. In addition to surgeries, any major illnesses should be disclosed as well, as a patient’s tolerance of anesthesia can be changed by previous and current illnesses.


Illicit Drug Use

Drugs, both prescription and illicit, can alter the way anesthesia affects patients. In addition, smoking illicit drugs, like smoking cigarettes, can alter the way a patient returns to breathing on their own after being on a ventilator.

Illegal drugs can change the effectiveness of prescription pain medications, requiring different dosages and can have interactions with anesthesia drugs, causing serious complications.



It is important to disclose all known allergies prior to having surgery. All allergies, including food, medications, and those that cause skin irritation, should be included. By placing this information on your hospital chart, it will make the various departments of the hospital, including pharmacy and nutritional services, aware of the allergies.

A good example is an egg allergy, which may not seem important when having surgery; however, many medications are formulated in an egg base, which could cause a serious reaction if given to the patient.


Past Issues With Surgery

The surgeon should be made aware of any problems with previous surgeries, including with anesthesia. This includes bleeding issues after surgery, briefly waking during surgery or anything else that was unusual. Let your surgeon know if you had nausea and vomiting after surgery in the past.

A patient who has had problems in the past is not necessarily going to have the same problems if they have surgery again, and problems that can reoccur may be prevented if the surgeon and anesthesia provider are aware of the issues.


Current Illness or Fever on the Day of Surgery

Feeling sick the day before or the day of surgery?

If a patient begins to feel ill or has a fever in the days preceding surgery, the surgeon needs to be made aware. The surgeon may decide it is safe to continue with surgery or may opt to postpone the procedure. A fever is a sign of possible infection and should be disclosed, to prevent wasted time and energy for both the patient and the surgeon.

A patient who presents at the hospital for a scheduled surgery unaware that they have a fever may be sent home and the surgery appointment changed.


Current Health Conditions

Any current health issues a patient is facing should be disclosed to the surgeon. For example, a patient who is having knee replacement surgery needs to make their surgeon aware of the fact that they are diabetic and using insulin. Without this information, the hospital is unable to provide care for all of the conditions, which could harm the patient.


Religious Issues

Some religions forbid blood transfusions and other medical procedures. If this is the case, the surgeon must be aware of the conditions under which they are operating prior to surgery. Some surgeries would not be able to take place if the religious objection would impact the level of care. In other cases, there may be alternatives that the surgeon would be able to prepare if given enough time.

Honesty and Candor Can Improve Your Surgery Outcome

It may not seem like your surgeon knows that you have two glasses of wine every night with dinner, or that you used to be a smoker, but this type of information absolutely impacts your surgical procedure and recovery. Take the time to answer your surgeon's questions thoroughly, and don't even consider fibbing or telling a white lie when filling out forms or answering questions.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Zambouri A. Preoperative evaluation and preparation for anesthesia and surgeryHippokratia. 2007;11(1):13–21.

  2. Katznelson R, Beattie WS. Perioperative smoking risk. Anesthesiology. 2011;114(4):734-6. doi:/10.1097/ALN.0b013e318210fedc

Additional Reading

By Jennifer Whitlock, RN, MSN, FN
Jennifer Whitlock, RN, MSN, FNP-C, is a board-certified family nurse practitioner. She has experience in primary care and hospital medicine.