Plastic Surgery Hospital Stay

What to Expect During Your Plastic Surgery Hospital Stay

March 6, 2019

Typically, hospitals require you to arrive two or more hours before your plastic surgery procedure. Extra time is required because there is a lot of paperwork that needs to be completed. Start your preparations now so you are ready on the date of your plastic surgery hospital stay.

  • Plan to be early.
  • Be familiar with your driving route and take into account anticipated traffic.
  • Plan for parking.
  • Hospitals sometimes allow you to drive yourself to the hospital, but loved ones drive most patients.
  • Do not bring your valuables.
  • Do not bring your medications. The hospital pharmacy will have all the medications you require.

The hospital experience can be quite distressing and anxiety provoking. It is essential to try to keep calm as much as possible.  You must realize that the hospital is a very controlling environment. Fortunately, usually, you could not be in a safer place than a hospital.

Plastic Surgery Hospital Stay - The Players

The Receptionist

At first, some hospitals are extremely busy and at first, can seem quite chaotic. The first person you meet will probably be the receptionist. They will greet you and have you fill out some preliminary paperwork.  This paperwork will include your name, address, insurance verification, and other identifying information. Once your paperwork is completed, the receptionist will guide you to the preoperative holding area and introduce you to your nurse.

The Nurse

The nurse will guide you to a changing room where you will disrobe and don a beautiful hospital gown. It is crucial you remove all jewelry. During your plastic surgery procedure, electrocautery is used to cauterize or burn any bleeding vessels. If you have metallic piercings, the electrocautery could cause a contact burn. Therefore, just leave all your jewelry at home.

Your plastic surgery nurse will check your vital signs and connect you to the monitors.  Typically, these monitors measure your heart rate, heart rhythm, and blood oxygenation. Your nurse will review your paperwork, labs and planned procedure. If any blood work needs to be performed or repeated, a new blood sample may have to be drawn.

Your nurse will ask you what procedure you are having and if you have any allergies. (This allergy question will be asked multiple times throughout your hospital stay to ensure that you did not receive any potentially allergic medication.)

Sequential compression boots may be placed on your calves to minimize blood clots. Unfortunately, due to our digital age, your nurse will spend an inordinate amount of time on the hospital computer entering all your information. Your nurse will then establish an IV and start IV fluids.  For those of you that are squeamish and do not like needles, please remember it is essential to relax.

The Anesthesiologist

Often, your anesthesiologist will call you the night before surgery. On the day of surgery, your proposed procedure will be discussed with your anesthesiologist. Your anesthesiologist will review your medical records, including your blood work, chest x-ray, EKG, and urine work. If your anesthesiologist has any questions regarding your past medical history, these will be reviewed with you. If you have any questions or concerns regarding anesthesia, these should be addressed at this time.

Your anesthesiologist will review with you the potential risks and complications of anesthesia. If general anesthesia is planned, your anesthesiologist will ask you about your dentition-- specifically, whether you have dentures, partial dentures, veneers, or any loose teeth. Loose teeth or dentures are important to mention to your anesthesiologist. During intubation or placement of a breathing tube, anything loose in your mouth can be damaged accidentally and cause significant problems. Be honest with your anesthesiologist regarding any loose teeth or any dentures. Your anesthesiologist will administer preoperative antibiotics through your IV.

The Plastic Surgeon

Ideally, well before the day of your plastic surgery procedure, you will have met with your plastic surgeon. On the day of your procedure, you will confirm the planned procedure with your plastic surgeon. Before the procedure, please mention any questions or concerns to your plastic surgeon. If you have any requests for additional procedures (like liposuction) that are not on the surgical consent, please mention this to your plastic surgeon before the procedure. Please remember any procedure that is not written and signed for on the surgical consent will not be performed.

Typically, your plastic surgeon will take preoperative pictures of you without clothes in the preoperative holding area. These pictures are part of your medical record, much like an X-ray.  Markings will be made of the proposed surgery, and then pictures will be taken of the markings. Taking naked pictures in the preoperative holding area can be quite anxiety provoking. Please remember to try to stay calm. This picture taking process is very routine in hospitals centered around plastic surgery.

You should realize, plastic surgeons take pictures, make preoperative surgical markings, and perform many surgeries every day. After taking pictures, you will then be escorted back to your bed.

Once all the paperwork is completed and you are deemed medically stable for the procedure, you will be given medication through your IV to help you relax. This medication is so strong you may not remember the previous 30 to 60 minutes. This is another time to remain calm. Try to relax and go with the medication. Meditation helps. You will then be taken to the operating room.

Your Plastic Surgery Procedure

You will be transferred from your stretcher to the operating room table. Often, the operating room table is cold and narrow, but this allows for easy access to your body during the procedure. You will be given a warming blanket. Your arms will be outstretched and gently restrained with Velcro straps. Arm restraints are for your protection. The anesthesiologist will then give you medication to help you relax further.

Before the surgery, you may want “to plan your dream” during anesthesia. Think of your favorite vacation spot. While the relaxation medication is being administered, you will want to remember your dream spot and slowly drift off to sleep.

Some procedures are performed under IV sedation, whereas other procedures are performed under general anesthesia. Depending on your health, procedure, procedure length, plastic surgeon, and anesthesiologist’s wishes, your anesthesia will be administered accordingly. If the procedure is relatively long, a bladder catheter is inserted once you are asleep.

During your plastic surgery procedure, your skin is sterilized with a surgical prep solution. Sterile surgical drapes are placed. Local anesthesia is given at the incision site and the procedure is begun. Once the procedures are completed, further anesthetic is injected into the incision, and a garment or binder is placed. You will be given medication to reverse the anesthetic and slowly wake up. If you have general anesthesia with a breathing tube, the breathing tube will be removed when you are deeply asleep. You will wake up from general anesthesia like you wake up from a deep sleep. You will then be transferred to the recovery room.

The Recovery Room

You may feel cold and you may shiver. Shivering is normal due to the anesthetic reversing medications. Usually, you will be given a warming blanket to increase your body temperature. You will be sleepy, but over the next one to two hours, you will slowly awaken.

If you have nausea, your nurse will give you medication to counteract this. If you have pain, your nurse will give you medications to minimize this too. In the recovery room, your nurse will continue to observe your vital signs and overall general health. After one or two hours, most patients are stable for transfer to the regular hospital floor.

Your Hospital Room

After the recovery room, you will be taken to your hospital room. Your room may be a single room or a shared room. You will have a nurse or a nursing assistant take care of you. You will have a button to press if you need any assistance.  During your hospital stay, your nurse will frequently check your vital signs -- like blood pressure and pulse. The nurses may even wake you to check your vital signs.

Also, your nurse will record the amount of fluid in the drains and bladder catheter, if applicable. Pain will usually be controlled with pills, but if the pain is too intense, IM or IV pain medication can be administered. You may be given a machine to increase your lung capacity and minimize the chances of post-operative pneumonia. This machine is called an incentive spirometer. Your nurse will show you how and when to take your medications.

If applicable, your nurse will show you how to take care of your incision. Typically, depending on hospital policy, your family can stay and visit for extended periods.

Once your pain is controlled with oral medication, you are eating a little, your vital signs stable, and all laboratory values within relatively normal limits, you will be allowed to be discharged home.

Discharge Home

You will not be allowed to drive yourself home from the hospital. You will require a significant other to transport you home. Once home you will feel relieved.

Your plastic surgery hospital stay may be stressful, but it should be a positive experience. Hopefully, your hospital stay for your plastic surgery procedure and recovery will help you to complete your weight loss journey. Please remember to select an experienced, board-certified plastic surgeon.

timothy katzen


Dr. J. Timothy Katzen is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and is the President of the American Society of Bariatric Plastic Surgeons. Dr. Katzen specializes in reconstructive plastic surgery after massive weight loss. He has written many articles and given lectures around the world about how to perform plastic surgery on patients who have undergone massive weight loss. Dr. Katzen has plastic surgery offices in two different states and two different countries. Specifically, he has offices in Beverly Hills (California), Las Vegas (Nevada), and Dubai (United Arab Emirates). Read more articles from Dr. Katzen!