How to Prepare for Surgery at UWMC

​If you are scheduled for surgery through one of our University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) specialty clinics, the following information can help you prepare for your operation. You may also download a brochure in PDF format if you'd like more in-depth information.


Pre-Anesthesia Clinic: 206.598​.5053, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. 
Pavilion Surgery Center: 206.598.4214, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
Roosevelt Ambulatory Surgery Center: 206.598.0900, 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. 
Operating Room: 206.598.4270, after hours

Pre-Anesthesia Visit

Before your visit to the Pre-Anesthesia Clinic, you will meet with your surgeon in a UWMC specialty clinic. At this meeting, your surgeon and other healthcare professionals will review your medical history and home medicines, do a physical exam, talk with you about the surgery, and have you sign a consent form. 

Nurses trained in anesthesia assessment will then review your pre-anesthesia health assessment form, medical history and home medicine list. Depending on your type of surgery, your care team may order other pre-surgery tests, such as blood work, an electrocardiogram (EKG) or a chest X-ray. 

When you come to the Pre-Anesthesia Clinic for your appointment, be sure to bring:
  • A list of all the medicines you take, including times and dosages.
  • The results of tests you have had at any other hospital or clinic, especially heart or lung diagnostic testing such as an EKG, stress test, echocardiogram, pulmonary function tests, etc.

If you need assistance getting test results from your doctor or clinic, please ask us and we can help you.

It is important to talk with your surgeon and Pre-Anesthesia Clinic staff about all the medicines you are taking. You may need to stop taking some of them for a day or more before your surgery. 

The pre-anesthesia visit is a good time to ask questions about what will happen on the day of your surgery. At the end of your visit, the Pre-Anesthesia Clinic staff will ask you for a phone number where you can be reached the day before surgery.

Watch our Preparing for Surgery Video


The Day Before and Morning of Surgery

​Pre-Surgery Call

A staff member from the Pre-Anesthesia Clinic will call you the afternoon before your surgery to confirm the location of your surgery and your arrival time. You'll also get some pre-surgery instructions and have an opportunity to ask any last-minute questions. 

If your surgery is on a Monday, this call will take place on the Friday afternoon before surgery. 

If you do not receive a call by 5 p.m., call the Pre-Anesthesia Clinic at 206.598.6334.

Eating and Drinking

Unless you are told otherwise, you may eat normally and take your usual medicine the day and evening before surgery. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before or morning of your surgery. 

It is important to follow the guidelines about not eating and drinking. This helps reduce the chance of vomiting and/or inhaling items into your lungs during your surgery. If you forget or do not follow these fasting guidelines, your surgery may need to be rescheduled for another day. 

You may swallow pills you are required to take the morning of surgery with small sips of water.

Guidelines for the Day of Surgery

  • Wear loose clothing that will be easy to take off and comfortable to wear home.
  • Please do not bring valuables with you.
  • Remove all jewelry and body piercings.
  • Do not use any makeup, deodorant, lotions, hair products or fragrances.

What to Bring

  • A list of your medicines. Do not bring the actual medicines unless you have been told to do so by the Pre-Anesthesia Clinic nurse.

  • A photo ID, your insurance and pharmacy insurance cards, and co-payment for discharge medicine.
  • A copy of your health care directive and/or durable power of attorney for healthcare if you want one placed in your medical record.

  • Your L&I claim number, if you have one.
  • Your CPAP machine if you have sleep apnea and use it at night to help you breathe.
If you choose to fill your medication at the UWMC pharmacy and have insurance co-pays, you are required to pay when you pick up your medicine. We are unable to send you a bill for these co-pays. You may pay with cash, check or a credit card (MasterCard, VISA or American Express). 

Canceling Your Surgery

If you need to cancel your surgery prior to your scheduled surgery day, please call your patient care coordinator before 4 p.m. or the operating room at 206.598.4270. If you need to cancel your surgery on the morning of surgery, call the operating room at 206.598.4270.

Checking In for Surgery

Generally, we ask you to come in 1½ hours before your surgery to check in. Some surgeries may require longer preparation time; if that's true for you, we'll let you know.

During this time, you will:
  • Sign admission forms
  • Be asked whether your health has recently changed
  • Meet your anesthesiology team
  • Have your intravenous line (IV) started. An IV is a small needle and thin tube that is used to deliver medicines and fluids to your body.
We suggest bringing a book or a project to help pass the time before your surgery.

Your Family and Friends

The UWMC staff is dedicated to keeping your family informed and will be in contact with your loved ones about how your surgery is going. 

While you are in the operating room, family and friends may wait in the surgery waiting areas. After your surgery is completed, the surgeon will come out to let them know how everything went. 

A computer monitor in the surgery waiting room will also help your family and friends to track your progress from operating room to recovery. 

After you've received the appropriate post-surgical care, your loved ones will generally be able to visit you in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) if you wish. Because of limited space in the PACU area, you may have only one adult visitor at a time.

In the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit

​Most patients spend one to two hours after surgery in the PACU. A nurse will check your breathing, heart rate and blood pressure at regular intervals. Your nurse will also help you with any nausea or pain you may feel. You may receive pain medicine by mouth or directly through your IV.

Be sure to ask your nurse for pain medicine before your pain gets too intense.
If you are staying overnight in the hospital, you may also receive pain relief by:
  • Medicine given through a small tube in your back (epidural).
Patient-controlled analgesia (PCA). This is a machine that puts a dose of pain medicine into your IV tube when you push a button. Your doctors will prescribe the correct amount of medicine for your needs. With PCA, you do not have to wait for a nurse. You are in control of your pain relief. You will not become addicted to these medicines if you use the machine as prescribed.

Going Home

During your pre-surgical visit to the UWMC specialty clinic, your surgeon will discuss with you whether you will go home the same day as your surgery or stay in the hospital. 

Before you leave the hospital, you will make a follow-up appointment and receive information about how to care for yourself at home. You MUST have a responsible adult take you home. You cannot drive or take a taxi or bus home by yourself. For your safety, we strongly recommend that you have a responsible adult stay with you for at least 24 hours. That person should be able to help you with anything that you need, including getting up and down stairs, if necessary, and making sure you have meals. 

Please DO NOT do any of the following for 24 hours after receiving anesthesia or taking sleeping medicine:
  • Drive
  • Travel alone
  • Drink alcoholic beverages
  • Operate machinery
  • Sign any legal documents
  • Be responsible for another person, such as a child
Ask your surgeon about how your activity might be limited after surgery and how long these limits will last. It can be helpful to consider what kind of help you will need and arrange for this help before your surgery. Work out things like how you will get to the bathroom, go up and down stairs, prepare your meals, and care for yourself.

If you have any other questions about surgery or the post-surgical recovery process, please speak with your surgeon.