How exactly should you prepare for a major knee operation? If you’re spending a few days and nights in hospital, the to-do list probably feels daunting. If so, don’t worry. Below is a quick checklist of tips and advice – things you can do in advance, and things to pack for your visit.
Hospital website: first things first: look up your hospital’s website. It will have lots of specific information for your visit, from parking locations and costs to amenities (cafés, shops, pharmacy etc), visiting times and facilities (eg internet access). Search for your hospital on this link.
Pre-surgery documents: your surgery team will write to you before your surgery. Watch out for this letter. It will contain important advice about the hospital, what to bring and what to do about any prescribed medicines you may be taking.
Transport: you probably won’t be able to drive yourself home after surgery. If friends or family can help, let them know your surgery date as soon as possible. Bear in mind that check-out times can vary, so they’ll need to be flexible. In certain circumstances, you may be eligible for Patient Transport Services to and from hospital: find out more here.
Visitor timetable: think about who you’d like to see in hospital. If there are likely to be lots of visitors (lucky you), it might be better to schedule close family for the immediate post-op hours and other guests for the following afternoon. Again, check if your hospital has a policy for visiting hours.
PACKING FOR HOSPITAL
Clothing: pack for the 24-hour cycle. Nightwear and a dressing gown for the evenings. Casual clothes for the day. Loose-fitting clothes like a T-shirt and tracksuit bottoms are good bets; they’ll help you to be comfortable in bed and won’t cramp you during physio sessions.
Footwear: slippers are excellent hospital companions: easy to get in and out of, with no laces that require bending and tying. Just make sure they have good grips. For shoes, aim for comfort. A flat pair with a reasonable insole is better than something with a raised heel.
Medication: pack any medicines you’re taking, with original containers so they can’t be mixed up or mistaken. You can give them to the nurse on arrival. It can be helpful to write them down on a list, too, with times and dosages, plus any other documents from your GP (such as prescription forms).
Wash bag: you’ll probably want to rely on your own toiletries rather than the hospital’s. Here’s a basic kitlist: toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, sanitary wear, shaving equipment, shampoo and a small hand towel.
Food: packaged snacks are helpful when you’re bed-bound, or if you have special dietary needs. Dried fruit (like prunes) is a good option, since constipation is a common side-effect of surgery.
Entertainment: you’ll want to occupy your mind in hospital. Books, magazines and puzzle books are easy to bring and leave lying around. A tablet with pre-downloaded films and audio might be good too, but consider the security side. Some hospitals advise against bringing valuables.
Cash: we don’t quite live in a completely cashless economy. A small amount of change (though not too much – see above point) may be useful for the vending machines or hospital trolleys.
Eye care: pack your lenses if appropriate, but remember you may be sleeping for longer periods, so glasses may be more helpful than contacts. Hospital air-cons can be somewhat drying for the eyes and skin, so you might like to consider bringing eye drops or lotions.
Looking for more advice about surgery? Read our recent tips on getting better sleep, and this piece focusing on how to prep for your return home after hospital. The NHS has some useful advice, too. For any other burning questions, drop us a line direct. We’ll be very glad to help.