Getting Ready for Surgery

Getting ready for surgery

If you are planning to have hernia surgery, there are things you can do before your operation to increase your chances of a successful outcome and reduce your risks related to surgery.

Your surgeon might recommend specific actions to optimize your health for surgery. Optimizing your health means getting in the best shape so you can have a healthy recovery.

You can get strong for surgery by boosting your physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, stopping smoking and the use of nicotine products, managing diabetes, and taking other steps for your overall health.

Boost Your Physical Activity

Being active before surgery makes your heart and lungs stronger, which can help speed up your recovery. Exercise also strengthens your muscles, which will help you start walking sooner after surgery. Increased activity can also help prevent infections, blood clots and pneumonia.

If you don’t usually exercise, you can start by doing light activities, such as walking, swimming and stretching. Try to do a little more each day to get stronger. Walking for 30 minutes each day has been shown to decrease surgical complications.

Your doctor can help you make a plan to exercise safely before surgery.

If these activities cause you pain, please stop right away and discuss further with your doctor.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

It is important to maintain a healthy weight before surgery to reduce the chance of your hernia coming back, which is called a recurrent hernia. Maintaining a healthy weight will also improve your ability to heal your wounds after surgery

Some people will need to lose weight before they can have hernia surgery. This is because being overweight or obese can increase the risk of postoperative complications after surgery, including wound or mesh related infection as well as a recurrent hernia.

Eating a healthy diet before surgery will help your body stay strong, fight infection and heal quickly. Your diet before surgery should be high in protein, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains. These foods will help keep your muscles strong and your body healthy during and after surgery.

If you have questions about what to eat leading up to surgery, a registered dietician can help you reach your goals, perform better and be healthier.

Stop Smoking and Nicotine Products

Smoking or using other nicotine products can cause serious complications after surgery. Cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, chewing tobacco, wet and dry snuff, and vaping can all put you at high risk for complications, including:

  • Lung infection
  • Hernia recurrence
  • Wounds that take longer to heal

Stopping at least 4 weeks before surgery will help prevent infection and help your body recover faster. It will also reduce the chance of the hernia coming back. Ask your surgeon for tools to help you quit or call 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669). Visit for more information. For more useful tips and resources, visit the American College of Surgeons website.

Resources and Support

Your doctor and hernia care team are available to answer your questions and provide resources to help you get strong and healthy for surgery.

Being active, maintaining a healthy weight, and quitting or avoiding nicotine products are steps you can take to prepare for surgery. Other things to keep in mind before surgery include:

  • Diabetes: It is important to control your blood sugar levels during your journey. This will help you heal faster and prevent infection. Please contact the doctor who manages your diabetes if you have questions or need help controlling your blood sugars.
  • Mental Health: It is important to take care of your mental health before and after surgery. Taking control of your anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses will help your recovery. If you have questions or need help with your mental health, the psychiatrists at Barnes-Jewish & Washington University can help. To make an appointment call 314-286-1700.
  • Overall Health: Healthy behaviors can go a long way toward improving your health and lowering your risk of many cancers as well as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and osteoporosis. And even small changes can have a big impact. Learn more about 8 Ways to Stay Healthy and Prevent Cancer.
  • Prehabilitation: The Washington University Surgical Prehabilitation and Readiness (SPAR) Program is designed to help people get ready for surgery. Prehabilitation, or rehabilitation before surgery, focuses on improving your health so you can have the best possible outcome.

What to Expect

Learn more about your expected recovery time, length of hospital stay, and any limitations on lifting or activity before having surgery.