Checking into hospital

Posted on 20 April 2016

Heading to hospital for surgery? Don’t stress: you’re in safe hands with the staff at Mediclinic. You can make their job easier, though, by following a few simple Do’s and Don’ts ahead of your op.

Sister Hilary Law is a registered nurse at Mediclinic Barberton in Mpumalanga. It’s a relatively small hospital (‘It’s just a 30-bed hospital,’ she says), but it provides quality healthcare to local, Mozambican and Swazi patients. We spoke to Sister Law, and asked her to talk us through a pre-surgery checklist.

DON’T drink if you’ve been instructed to fast before surgery. ‘I have found that there is often a misunderstanding around eating and drinking,’ says Sister Law. ‘A patient will be told they mustn’t have anything to eat or drink, but then they’ll have tea or coffee or something. There’s a bit of a communication gap there sometimes.’

DO speak to your doctor if you’re taking herbal remedies. Herbs like garlic, ginseng or ginger can increase your risk of bleeding during surgery, so do let your doctor know if you’re taking any of them. (There is still some debate about this among doctors, but it’s best to be sure.)

DON’T chew gum. Some patients try to cheat by munching on chewing gum, thinking that it’s a loophole around the fasting instruction. The problem with that is that when you chew gum, your stomach produces extra acid – and when you’re under anaesthetic, this increases your risk of regurgitation (vomiting). (Again, there’s a debate about this. But again, it’s best to be sure.)

DO check your medication. ‘If you’re on your own medication, you need to find out if you can take it on the day of surgery,’ says Sister Law. Consult your GP to be 100% sure.

DON’T shave your legs. This could damage the skin, exposing it to harmful bacteria and raising the risk of infection. Do shower or bath before your op, but don’t shave your legs. Rather go natural… and don’t worry: the nurses won’t judge you if your legs aren’t silky smooth this one time!

DO remove your jewellery. And we mean all your jewellery. Metal objects can interfere with the equipment in surgery – especially imaging equipment like X-rays. One example is a tongue piercing: if you get an X-ray of your mouth, the metal of your tongue stud will make it impossible to see what’s behind it… and that increases the chances of your doctor (or dentist, in this case) missing something.

DON’T paint your nails. Like the leg-shaving rule, this is to reduce unwanted bacteria from being brought into the hospital. And like the jewellery rule, if you have polished nails it could cause your doctors to miss something. Doctors and nurses often check your skin and nails during surgery to make sure your blood circulation is healthy.

DO remove your hair extensions. ‘Nurses mention this quite often,’ says Sister Law. ‘If you’re wearing hair extensions, it can cause a problem if you pull it up into a ball at the back of your head. It makes insulation in the operating theatre quite difficult.’

DON’T forget your PJs. ‘I don’t know why, but patients will often forget their pyjamas,’ says Sister Law. ‘I think sometimes they think the hospital will provide them with pyjamas… or sometimes they just don’t think about it!’ Remember to pack a fresh set, and don’t forget your dressing gown either!



Published in Patient Stories

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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