Getting Ready for Surgery

This information will help you prepare for your surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering’s (MSK’s) Memorial Hospital or Josie Robertson Surgery Center (JRSC). Review these instructions 10 days before your surgery.

Before Your Surgery

Ask about your medications

You will need to stop taking certain medications before your surgery. Your doctor or nurse will speak with you about which medications you should and should not take. Review the resources Common Medications Containing Aspirin and Other Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs and Herbal Remedies and Cancer Treatment that your nurse gave you.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you are currently taking any pain medications or antianxiety medications. It is important to keep taking these medications on schedule, even during your treatment. You may be able to take them on the morning of your surgery if needed.

About Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common breathing disorder that causes a person to stop breathing for short periods of time while sleeping. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). With OSA, the airway becomes completely blocked during sleep. It can cause serious problems during and after surgery.

Tell us if you have sleep apnea or if you think you might have it. If you use a breathing machine (such as a CPAP) for sleep apnea, bring it with you the day of your surgery.

Arrange for someone to take you home

You must have someone 18 years or older take you home after your surgery. If you don’t have anyone, call one of the agencies below. They will provide someone to accompany you home. However, there is usually a charge for this service and you’ll need to provide transportation.

In New York:
Partners in Care: 888-735-8913
Prime Care: 212-944-0244

In New York or New Jersey:
Caring People: 877-227-4649

We recommend that you have someone to help at home for the first 24 hours after surgery.

Complete a Health Care Proxy form

If you haven’t already completed a Health Care Proxy form, we recommend you complete one now. A health care proxy is a legal document that identifies the person who will speak for you if you are unable to communicate for yourself. The person you identify is called your health care agent.

If you are interested in completing a Health Care Proxy form, talk with your nurse. If you have completed one already, or if you have any other advance directive, bring it with you to your next appointment. Read our resource What You Need to Know about a Health Care Agent for more information.

Purchase your supplies


Purchase a bottle of Hibiclens (chlorhexidine) cleanser, if needed. Hibiclens is a skin cleanser that kills germs for 6 hours after using it. Showering with Hibiclens before surgery will help reduce your risk of infection after surgery. It is available at your local pharmacy without a prescription. Some surgeries don’t require you to wash with Hibiclens.

Bowel preparation

You may need to clean out your bowels before your surgery. Your nurse will tell you how and tell you what supplies you need. You may also want to purchase clear liquids to drink the day before your surgery, if you need to. Review the resource Clear Liquid Diet for examples. Some surgeries don’t require a bowel preparation.

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The Day Before Your Surgery

A clerk from the Admitting Office will call you after 2:00 pm the day before your surgery. If you are scheduled for surgery on a Monday, you’ll be called on the Friday before.

The clerk will tell you what time you should arrive at the hospital for your surgery.

The clerk will also tell you where to go on the day of your surgery. This will be at one of the following locations:

  • Presurgical Center (PSC) on the 2nd floor
    1275 York Avenue
    (between East 67th and East 68th Streets)
    M Elevator to 2nd Floor
  • Presurgical Center (PSC) on the 6th floor
    1275 York Avenue
    (between East 67th and East 68th Streets)
    B elevator to 6th Floor
  • Josie Robertson Surgery Center (JRSC)
    1133 York Avenue
    (between East 61st and East 62nd Streets)

If you don’t receive a call by 7:00 pm, call 212-639-5014.

If you have any changes in your health or you need to cancel your surgery for any reason, call your surgeon. Offices are usually open Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. After 5:00 pm, during the weekend, and on holidays, call 212-639-2000 and ask for the doctor that is covering for your surgeon.

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The Evening Before Your Surgery

  • If your surgeon told you that you’ll need to do a bowel preparation, you’ll need to start it 1 day before your surgery. Follow the instructions you received.
  • If you were instructed to shower using Hibiclens, follow the instructions on the bottle. Open the bottle and pour some solution into your hand or a washcloth. Rub it gently over your body from your neck to your waist and rinse. Don’t let the solution get into your eyes, ears, mouth, or genital area. Don’t use any other soap. Dry yourself off with a clean towel after your shower.
  • Follow any special instructions your nurse gave you about your diet or medications.
  • Go to bed early and get a full night’s sleep.

Do not eat solid foods after midnight.
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The Day of Your Surgery

Between midnight and up until 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time, you may drink a total of 12 ounces of clear liquids (see Figure 1).

Examples of clear liquids include:

12 ounces of clear liquid
  • Water
  • Clear broth, bouillon, or consommé (no particles of dried food or seasonings)
  • Gelatin, such as Jell-O®
  • Clear fruit juices (no pulp), such as white cranberry, white grape, or apple
  • Soda, such as 7-Up®, Sprite®, ginger ale, seltzer, or Gatorade®
  • Coffee or tea, without milk or cream

Starting 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time, do not eat or drink anything.

Follow any special instructions your nurse gave you about your diet.

Take your medications as instructed

Your doctor or nurse may have instructed you to take certain medications on the morning of your surgery. Take only those medications with a sip of water.

Shower with Hibiclens

If you were instructed to shower using Hibiclens, follow the instructions on the bottle. Open the bottle and pour some solution into your hand or a washcloth. Rub it gently over your entire body from your neck to your waist and rinse. Don’t let the solution get into your eyes, ears, mouth, or genital area. Don’t use any other soap. Dry yourself off with a clean towel after your shower.

What to bring

  • A list of all the medications you are taking, including patches and creams.
  • Your CPAP machine for sleep apnea, if you have one.
  • Your Health Care Proxy Form, if you have completed one.
  • Your portable music player, if you choose. However, someone will need to hold this and any other personal items for you when you go into surgery.

Things to remember

  • Don’t wear any metal objects. Remove all jewelry, including body piercings. The equipment used during your surgery can cause burns if it touches metal.
  • Don’t put on any lotion, cream, deodorant, makeup, powder, or perfume.
  • Leave valuables, such as credit cards, jewelry, and your checkbook, at home.
  • If you wear contact lenses, wear your glasses instead. Remember to bring a case for them.
  • If you are currently menstruating, use a sanitary pad, not a tampon. You’ll get disposable underwear, as well as a pad if needed.


Memorial Hospital

Parking at Memorial Hospital is available in the garage on East 66th Street between York and First Avenues. To reach the garage, turn onto East 66th Street from York Avenue. The garage is located about a quarter of a block in from York Avenue, on the right-hand (north) side of the street. There is a pedestrian tunnel that you can walk through that connects the garage to the hospital. If you have questions about prices, call 212-639-2338.

There are also other garages located on East 69th Street between First and Second Avenues, East 67th Street between York and First Avenues, and East 65th Street between First and Second Avenues.


Parking at JRSC includes valet parking for the same fee as self-parking. When you arrive at the JRSC, a valet driver will meet you and park your car next door at the Quik Park at 425 East 61st Street. For more information on parking fees, call 212-980-6034.

If you choose not to use our valet service, there are nearby garages, on East 61st Street, between First and York Avenues. You’ll have to pay to park in these garages.

Prepare for surgery

  • When it is time to change for surgery, you’ll get a hospital gown, robe, and nonskid socks to wear.
  • The exact starting time of surgery may depend on the length of the surgery scheduled before yours. Your nurse will speak with you if there are any unexpected delays.
  • Before you are taken into the operating room, you’ll need to remove your hearing aids, dentures, prosthetic device(s), wig, and religious articles (such as a rosary).
  • Once your nurse has seen you, your visitors can keep you company as you wait for your surgery to begin. When it is time for your surgery, your visitor(s) will be shown to the waiting area. Your visitors should read Information for Family and Friends for the Day of Surgery. A nurse will escort your visitors to the recovery room when you wake up from your surgery.
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Helpful Phone Numbers

Admitting Office
Call to discuss private room or luxury suite options. If you want to change your room choice after your PST visit, call 212-639-7873 or 212-639-7874.

Call with any questions about anesthesia.

Bobst International Center
MSK welcomes patients from around the world. If you are an international patient, call for help coordinating your care.

Patient Billing
Call Patient Billing with any questions regarding preauthorization with your insurance company. This is also called preapproval.

Patient Representative Office
Call if you have any questions about the Health Care Proxy form or if you have any concerns about your care.

Private Duty Nursing Office
Patients may request private nurses or companions. Call for more information.

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