Pre-Operative Physical Examination

Pre-Operative Physical Examination

A pre-operative physical examination is generally performed upon the request of a surgeon to ensure that a patient is healthy enough to safely undergo anesthesia and surgery. This evaluation usually includes a physical examination, cardiac evaluation, lung function assessment, and appropriate laboratory tests. All pre-operative physical examinations begin by gathering basic health related information such as medical history, pre-existing conditions, and current medication. Patients may be asked a variety of medical questions to better understand their current physical/health condition so the right decisions can be made for surgery. Testing may include:

Basic Physical Exam Tests

Blood Tests: Your physician may order a full blood panel to check your white and red blood cells for conditions such as anemia which can increase risk during surgery. The condition of your immune system will also be checked to determine if recovery time will be affected.

X-rays: If you are considered an at-risk patient (for example, if you have a family history of heart disease, have had a previous heart attack or have high cholesterol), your physician might also order an EKG and possibly chest X-rays. People over the age of 55 often need to see a cardiologist for a more thorough checkup before undergoing surgery.

  • Respiratory/lung function testing if you have breathing abnormalities or if you are obese, which could interfere with intubation.
  • Gastrointestinal testing if you suffer from chronic inflammation, constipation or other digestive issues.
  • Cross-match blood testing if you don’t know your blood type. This will tell the doctor what your blood type is in case a transfusion is needed.
  • A pregnancy test if there’s a chance you might be pregnant.

Standard Pre-Operative Tests

Vital SignsHead & NeckTesticular & Prostate
General AppearanceAbdomenLung Function
VisionNeurologicalPelvic, Pap Smear, Breast Exam
HearingDermatologicalChest X-ray
Heart (EKG)ExtremitiesComprehensive Lab Testing

Specialized Tests

Your doctor will order additional, specialized pre-op tests when and if necessary. While this might seem inconvenient and could potentially lead to postponing your surgery, keep in mind it’s all done to ensure your safety during the procedure. For example, you might need a urine analysis if you have kidney problems or to check for the presence of an infection. If you are at risk for diabetes, your doctor could also request a glucose test. And if you have any type of blood disorder, such as blood clots, you might also need to see a hematologist to get additional feedback or recommendations on how to get through the surgery safely. Plus, people with obstructive sleep apnea might need to get additional checks and tests to ensure that they won’t have trouble breathing while under general anesthesia.

Certain types of surgery require their own tests. For example, if you’re having stomach or colon surgery, your doctor might need you to undergo a colonoscopy before your surgery. Or, you may need a CT scan or an MRI scan. These are very specific tests that are directly connected to the type of surgery you’re having, so not everybody will need them. Whatever the type of tests you need ahead of your surgery, your doctor will identify them during your preoperative physical exam and make sure you’re ready for the procedure.

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