Undergoing a surgical procedure can be a stressful experience for many patients, but the professional staff at Hospital for Special Surgery is focused on providing you with every tool you’ll need to feel at ease with your upcoming procedure. The following is a helpful timeline to help you understand – and prepare for – each part of your experience at HSS.
If you have already scheduled a surgery, please visit our Preoperative Education page for additional information.
When scheduling your procedure with your surgeon, make sure you obtain an estimate of how long you will be in the hospital. Depending on the type of surgery, you may go home the same day, or you might be admitted for longer. Make sure to plan accordingly, considering work schedules, holidays, and upcoming family plans.
The Call Center is open Monday to Friday from 8:00 am to 6:30 pm. The day before your scheduled procedure, a nurse from HSS will call you between 1 pm and 6 pm with additional instructions and reminders. If you have not heard from us by 5 pm please call us at 212.606.1710.
You will be told when and where to come the next morning, and you will be reminded not to eat or drink anything after midnight. This does not apply to the medications that you have been instructed to take the morning of surgery with a small sip of water.
On the day of your surgery, you will arrive generally three hours before your procedure is scheduled to begin.
Members of our Patient Liaison Services Team will greet you. They and hospital volunteers will be available to attend to caregivers or visitors who may accompany you, and answer their questions. Your friends or loved ones may wait in one of our Family Atria, which are located on each of our surgical and procedure floors.
If you are delayed or have questions the morning of your surgery, feel free to contact our Call Center at 212.606.1710, Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 6:30 pm.
You will be escorted to the preoperative “Holding Area” to be prepared for surgery. A locker will be provided for your belongings, but please leave any valuables at home. This includes all jewelry, as you will be asked to remove everything before entering the operating room. You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and assigned a bed in the Holding Area. Your family can be with you during this time. A nurse will start an intravenous line (commonly referred to as an ‘IV’) to give you fluids, and if you are a woman of childbearing age, you will be asked to provide a urine specimen for a pregnancy test.
A physician’s assistant will take your history and perform a physical exam. The main purpose of this examination is to see if anything has changed since you last saw your medical or surgical physicians. You will be asked to confirm what type of surgery you are having and will be asked to sign consent for that surgery if you have not already done so. Your surgeon or one of his or her assisting physicians will come to speak to you and to sign your surgical site. This is simply a safeguard to confirm where on your body the surgery will be performed. At this time, you will also meet your anesthesiologist who will discuss what type of anesthesia you will receive.
Your surgery can be performed under two major types of anesthesia: general or regional anesthesia.
If your recovery is expected to require several days in the hospital, your anesthesiologist will choose one of two options to control your pain after surgery. He or she may elect to place a tiny plastic catheter at the site of the injection. This will allow you to receive a continuous infusion of pain medication after the surgery and will make your recovery much more comfortable. The other option is called intravenous patient-controlled analgesia, or PCA. This is a button that you can push to administer a small dose of intravenous pain medication every ten minutes as needed.
Learn more about What to Expect from Surgical Anesthesia
After your consultation with the anesthesiologist, you will be taken to the operating room by a nurse. Once there, your anesthesiologist will put on standard monitors, such as a blood pressure cuff and EKG leads, and will begin giving you sedative medication. One of the forms of anesthesia discussed above will be administered, and the surgery will begin. An anesthesiologist will be with you the entire time. When the surgery is complete, your surgeon will speak with your family and you will be taken to the recovery room.
If you are discharged the same day as your procedure, you will receive a call at home from one of our registered nurses the following day. They will inquire about your comfort and remind you of your discharge instructions.
In the recovery room, you will fully awaken from the sedation and will eventually be given ice chips followed by small sips of water. Your doctor or someone from his /her team will come by and speak with you about the surgery and follow-up plan.
If you will be going home that same day, you will receive detailed instructions for taking care of yourself at home and a prescription for pain medication. If you will be staying in the hospital for a few days, you will be assigned a room and will go there later that day or early the next morning. While still in the recovery room, your pain will be controlled with the infusion catheter, the PCA, or oral pain medications.
You will be discharged within 48 hours and likely given a prescription for pain medication, a prescription for physical therapy, and a follow-up appointment with your surgeon.
Have more questions? Please speak directly with your physician's office or Contact HSS.
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