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Before you come in for surgery

If you are having elective surgery, you will have been sent a letter detailing what you need to do to prepare and any forms that need to be filled out before you arrive.

Once you and your surgeon decide on surgery you will be asked to complete a Patient Health Questionnaire. This tells us about your health, allergies and medications you may be on so we can make arrangements for your care. It is important that you complete and return this questionnaire as soon as possible. Complete the form to the best of your knowledge. Your anaesthesia can only be as safe as possible when your anaesthetist has a complete picture of the state of your health.

You may also be asked to attend an appointment with an anaesthetist before your surgery or be available to talk on the phone. At this appointment we assess whether you are fit enough to have an operation, any preparation that may need to be done, and how long you will need to stay in hospital. Please make sure we have your correct address as we will send you a letter to confirm your appointment time.

At your pre-surgery appointment, you may see a specialist anaesthetist, medical officer or a nurse depending on your overall health and the type of operation you are having. Your condition will affect how long your appointment will take.  Some operations may require you to stay in the anaesthetic clinic for most of the day - this allows you plenty of time to ask questions and us to ensure we are well-prepared for your operation.

At your appointment, we will:

  • ask you about your health and medical history 
  • check your pulse and blood pressure 
  • weigh you and measure your height 
  • arrange any blood, heart tracing (ECG) or other tests as needed
  • answer any questions you may have about your operation and anaesthetic
  • arrange any support services you may require.

At this appointment, you may be given patient information about your operation. In some cases we will also be able to give you a date for your surgery. However, this will often be arranged later on, and a confirmation letter sent in the post.


Anaesthetic drugs are used to prevent you feeling pain during your operation.  There are different types of anaesthetic that can be used. An anaesthetist will meet with you before your operation to discuss the best anaesthetic for your needs and then they will stay with you throughout the operation. Their sole role is to look after you.

You can discuss these options and any preferences you may have with your anaesthetist.

  • LOCAL: a local anaesthetic numbs the part of your body being operated on with an injection to prevent you feeling pain. A local anaesthetic is often used for small, less extensive procedures. With a local anaesthetic you remain awake for the operation but don’t feel pain.
  • REGIONAL: an injection is used to numb the part of your body being operated on. It is often used for surgery on the hand, arm, knee etc. A larger section of your body can also be numbed this way, using an epidural or spinal anaesthetic. You may also receive medication to make you feel relaxed and sleepy. With a regional anaesthetic you may remain awake for the operation and will be free from pain.
  • GENERAL: an anaesthetic is injected into a vein or you will breathe in a gas that will make you unconscious. You may have a tube in your mouth and throat when you are asleep to help you breathe. With general anaesthetic, you are unconscious and feel nothing.



What to do the day before

If you are having surgery at Wellington Hospital you will be contacted by the hospital between 2 - 4pm the day before your surgery for a final check and instructions. If your surgery is on a Monday you will be contacted on the Friday before.  Phone (04) 806 0962 if you have not heard from the hospital by 4pm.

If you are having surgery at Kenepuru Hospital you will be contacted by the hospital between 1.30 - 3.30pm the day before your surgery. Phone (04) 385 5999 Extension 2901 if you have not heard from the hospital by 3:30pm.

Make sure you can be reached by phone.

It is very important that you follow the instructions provided to you.

Eating and drinking

Restrictions on eating and drinking are a safety precaution as there is a very low risk of you vomiting or regurgitating stomach contents whilst under anaesthetic.

Here are some general guidelines, however you will receive specific instructions relevant to your operation.  Your surgery may have to be postponed or cancelled if you do not follow these guidelines.

Adults and children over 2 years

Do not eat anything for 6 hours before your admission time. You may drink WATER freely up until 2 hours before your admission, then nothing more.

Children under 2 years

Cow’s milk or formula may be taken up to 6 hours prior to admission time, and breast milk up to 4 hours before admission. WATER only may be drunk up to 2 hours before admission.

What to expect on the day

When you arrive, our staff will help prepare you for your surgery.

Surgical Admissions

You will usually be asked arrive at Surgical Admissions several hours before your operation is scheduled. This allows the staff time to ensure all of your paper work is completed and correct.  In the unlikely event we need to perform emergency surgery on another patient or the operation before yours takes longer than expected, your operation may be delayed or may need to be postponed to another date.

Your safety is our highest priority, so we will not start your operation unless we have ample time, equipment and appropriately skilled staff available. We appreciate that having your operation delayed or postponed is frustrating, as you will likely be struggling with a disability and have made many arrangements. 

Once you have checked in at reception, you will be asked to fill in a personal information form. A surgeon and anaesthetist will usually come and see you, and will give you a request and consent form to read and sign. A nurse will then use a checklist to ensure you are well prepared and will be available for any further questions. 

If you or your child are female between the ages of 11 to 60 we will ask if there is any chance you could be pregnant, and when your last menstrual period was.  If there is any doubt we will ask you to provide a urine sample so we can check. After this we will ask that you wait in the lounge area until you are called to go into the operating theatre.

In the operating theatre

Once we are ready to bring you into the theatre, you will be changed into a gown, paper underpants, socks and hat, and a warm dressing gown.  If you are comfortable walking, a nurse will escort you into the operating theatre. Please let the nurses know if you would prefer to be wheeled in on a bed or wheelchair.

There will be a lot of staff in the theatre who all have different jobs to do. Once you are on the operating table, the staff in the theatre will perform some safety procedures which will involve asking you your name and date of birth, what operation is planned, if all the needed equipment is present, and if blood for transfusion or breathing difficulty is expected. While many of these questions may have already been asked before you enter the theatre, we ask them again as a final check for your safety.

Do not be alarmed that you will be asked a lot of the same questions by several different staff, this is to ensure your safety.

Once safety checks are complete, you will be given an anaesthetic and we will perform the surgery.


During your stay and going home


Immediately after your surgery, you will be taken to a Post Anaesthesia Care Unit (also known as the Recovery Room) where you will receive care while waking up from your anaesthetic. The nurses in this area are specially trained to ensure you are kept safe and comfortable as the anaesthetic wears off.

Family members or friends are not usually permitted in recovery; however the nurse taking care of you after your surgery or your surgeon will notify your family or significant other of your progress.

If you need to stay overnight or longer, you will be moved from the recovery area directly to your room on a ward. Your family can be with you after you are moved to the ward.

If you are going home the same day, you will be taken to second stage recovery area, where you will rest for a few hours before going home.

The effects of anaesthesia can last for some time. You may be drowsy for a while after your operation.

Going home

When you leave hospital, you will be given a pamphlet that describes what you can expect as you recover at home, and what you should do if you have concerns.  You may also be given a prescription you will need to take to a pharmacy.  Most operations will require you take some time off school or work, so please ask one of the nurses if you require a medical certificate.

You MUST have someone drive you home and stay with you for the 24 hours after your operation. You must also have access to a working telephone.

You MUST NOT drive a car, drink alcohol, use dangerous machinery/equipment (including cooking) or sign any important documents for 24 hours after an anaesthetic.

If you have an increase in pain or are feeling sick when you get home please contact the hospital for advice.

Last updated 16 September 2020.