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    Learning About Your Health

    Abdominal Surgery: Preparing for Surgery

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    What is Abdominal Surgery?

    Abdominal surgery involves a surgical operation on organs inside the abdomen (See Figure 1). This may include surgery on the stomach, gallbladder, small intestine, or large intestine (colon), liver, pancreas, spleen, esophagus, and appendix. Some reasons for abdominal surgery include infection, obstruction, tumors, or inflammatory bowel disease.

    Figure 1 showing an illustration of an abdomen with esophagus, liver, spleen, stomach, gallbladder, pancreas, large intestine, small intestine, and appendix
    During open abdominal surgery, your surgeon operates through an open surgical incision which is closed with staples or sutures (See Figure 2). During laparoscopic abdominal surgery, your surgeon operates through several tiny incisions using instruments placed through long, hollow tubes attached to a television camera (See Figure 3). Laparoscopic surgery is not possible for all types of surgery. Your surgeon will decide which type of surgical procedure is best for your planned operation. Some laparoscopic operations may be converted to an open surgical incision if needed for technical reasons.

    Figure 2 showing an illustration of an abdomen with an open incision closed with staples. Figure 3 showing an illustration of an abdomen with laparoscopic port sites. Location and number of port sites may vary according to procedure and surgeon.
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    Preparing for Your Surgery

    Use the following information to guide you as you plan for your operation.

    • Your surgeon's office will schedule your surgical procedure: Your surgeon's office will schedule your surgery and notify you of the time and location.

    • Make an appointment with your primary care doctor: You may need to make an appointment for a physical exam before your surgery. Discuss this with your surgeon’s office staff. One week before your surgery is the ideal time for you to have your physical exam. However, physical exams up to one month before your surgery will be accepted. Your primary care doctor will make sure you are physically able to undergo surgery.

    • Pre-registration is a two-step process that you must complete before having a surgery, test, or procedure at California Pacific Medical Center.
      1. Pre-Registration. Please call (855) 398-1637 within 1 – 2 weeks before your procedure to speak with a Patient Access representative. Please be sure to have your insurance card information ready when you begin.
      2. Health History. A nurse will take your health history, answer your questions, and explain what testing is necessary before your surgery, test, or procedure.

        Based on your health status, the nurse may send you to complete any required testing before you come to the hospital. The nurse will tell you where you can go for your test(s).

    About Your Medications

    • Ask your surgeon/primary doctor if and when you should stop taking any of your routine medications.


    • Your surgeon or primary doctor may request that you bring all of your medications in the original containers to the hospital. Note: For patient safety, please give any and all medications from home to the nursing staff. Medication brought in from home will not be used during your stay in the hospital unless it is not available from the hospital pharmacy. Your medications will be returned to you when you are ready to go home.


    • If you are taking any vitamins, herbal supplements, or over-the-counter medications, please discuss this with your surgeon and primary doctor and inform the nurse facilitator during pre-registration. Some of these medications also need to be stopped before surgery.


    • Fill any new prescriptions, including pain medication, before you have your surgery.


    • Review the list of your current medications with the nurse facilitator:


      • You will discuss the medications you may need to take the day of your surgery with a sip of water.


      • If you are taking blood-thinning medications such as Aspirin, Coumadin (Warfarin), Plavix (Clopidogrel), or Non-Steroidal Anti-inflammatory medications such as Naprosyn (Naproxen), Advil (Ibuprofen), Motrin (Ibuprofen), ask your surgeon/primary doctor when you should stop taking these medications before your surgery.


      • If you are taking medications for diabetes such as Glucophage (Metformin), Micronase (Glyburide), or Glucotrol (Glipizide), ask your surgeon/primary doctor when you should stop taking these medications before your surgery. If you are taking insulin for diabetes, ask your surgeon/primary doctor about the dosage (amount) and type of insulin you should take, or whether NOT to take your insulin, prior to the surgery.

    Other Suggestions to Help You Prepare

    • Eat a healthy diet.


    • Take daily walks: Take daily walks to improve strength and endurance before and after your surgery.


    • Quit smoking: Talk with your primary care doctor about quitting smoking. The Community Health Resource Center, in the Lobby at 2100 Webster Street, has classes and support groups for people who want to quit smoking. Also, you may call 1-800-NO-BUTTS for information about smoking cessation.

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    Before Your Surgery

    • Call your surgeon immediately for any changes in your health condition, such as a fever or cold, within 23 hours before your scheduled surgery. Be sure to tell your surgeon if you are pregnant.


    • If you are having colon or rectal surgery, your surgeon will give you instructions for preoperative bowel preparation. Follow them carefully.


    • Do not eat or drink anything within 6 hours of your procedure, unless otherwise directed by your doctor. However, you may continue to take your routine medications, such as heart and blood pressure medications, with only a sip of water.

    • It is a good idea to bring an old pair of glasses to the hospital to take into the operating room if you have very poor vision. Note: You will not be able to wear contact lenses in the operating room.


    • You are strongly encouraged not to smoke or drink alcohol 24 hours before your surgery.


    • Leave your valuables at home the day of surgery. Do not wear jewelry including rings and body piercings.

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    The Day of Surgery

    Go Directly to the Specific Campus Where Your Surgery is Scheduled:

    • Pacific Campus
      Ambulatory Care Unit (ACU)
      2351 Clay Street
      Stanford Building, 6th floor


    • California Campus – East
      3698 California Street
      1st Stop: Registration – 1st floor
      2nd Stop: Surgery – 3rd floor


    • California Campus – West
      3700 California Street
      Ambulatory Surgery Unit, 3rd floor


    • Davies Campus
      Castro & Duboce Streets
      Admissions – Lobby Level, North Tower

      • Take only the medications that you were instructed to take by the surgeon/primary doctor or nurse facilitator – with a sip of water.


      • Arrive 2 hours before your scheduled surgery. This time is required by the staff to help prepare you for your surgery.


      • Note: If you are scheduled for surgery at 7:00, 7:15, or 7:30 a.m., please arrive at 6:00 a.m.


      • Most operations are performed on time (for example, within 30 minutes of the scheduled surgery). The staff will keep you well-informed of any delays.

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    Surgical Waiting Areas – For Your Convenience

    During your surgery, your family and friends may wait in the designated Surgical Waiting Areas. Staff will direct your family and friends to the designated areas as well as keep them well-informed.

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    Planning Your Recovery

    • After abdominal surgery, it is normal to feel weak and tired for several weeks after you return home. Because each person is unique, the speed of your recovery and your ability to return to normal activities will vary.


    • Pain from the incision is normal. It will vary from day to day and with activity level. Gradually, your pain should decrease over time. Your surgeon will give you a prescription for pain medication when you are ready to leave the hospital.


    • Plan ahead to simplify your meal preparation. Do your grocery shopping, and prepare and freeze several meals before you come to the hospital. Place cooking utensils that you use frequently within easy reach.


    • Select books you would like to read or music you enjoy, and have them available during your recovery.


    • Check with your surgeon about how long you can expect to be off work because of surgery. Arrange time off from work so that you do not feel rushed during your recovery.

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    More Ways to Learn


    Produced by the staff and physicians at California Pacific Medical Center in association with the Center for Patient and Community Education. Last updated: 10/13

    Illustrations by: Christine Gralapp.
    Funded by: A generous donation from the Mr. and Mrs. Arthur A. Ciocca Foundation.

    Note: This information is not meant to replace any information or personal medical advice which you get directly from your doctor(s). If you have any questions about this information, such as the risks or benefits of the treatment listed, please ask your doctor(s).
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