Preparing for Your Skin Surgery

This information will help you prepare for your skin surgery at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK).

Follow the instructions below before your skin surgery. This will help lower the risk of problems during your surgery. Your nurse will review these instructions with you.

Preparing for Your Surgery

Tell us if you:

  • Have had any lymph nodes removed.
  • Have any of the following:
    • A heart valve replacement.
    • Bacterial endocarditis (an infection of the valves and inner lining of your heart).
    • A defibrillator or pacemaker.
    • Bleeding problems.
    • A prosthesis (including a total joint replacement).
  • Are taking antibiotics before a dental procedure.
  • Are getting treatment that lowers your immune system (such as taking prednisone (Deltasone®) or getting chemotherapy or radiation treatments).

Ask about your medications

You may need to stop taking some of your medications before your procedure. Talk with your doctor about which medications are safe for you to stop taking. We have included some common examples below.

Your doctor will give you instructions for when to stop taking these medications, if needed. Do not stop taking any prescription medications without talking with your doctor.

Anticoagulants (blood thinners)

Tell your doctor if you take any blood thinners (medications that affect the way your blood clots). Whether they recommend you stop taking the medication depends on the reason you’re taking it.

Here is a list of common blood thinners. This list doesn’t include all blood thinners. Ask your doctor or nurse if you’re unsure about any medications.

aspirin (Ecotrin®, Aggrenox®) dabigatran (Pradaxa®) heparin
apixaban (Eliquis®) dalteparin (Fragmin®) prednisone (Deltasone®)
cilostazol (Pletal®) dipyridamole (Aggrenox®) tinzaparin (Innohep®)
clopidogrel (Plavix®) enoxaparin (Lovenox®) warfarin (Coumadin®)

Aspirin, other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and vitamin E

Aspirin, other NSAIDs, and vitamin E can increase your risk of bleeding during surgery. Don’t take medications that have them unless your doctor says it’s okay.

Here is a list of common NSAIDs and medications containing aspirin or other NSAIDs. This list doesn’t include all NSAIDs or medications that contain them. Ask your doctor or nurse if you’re unsure about any medications.

Advil® Bayer® (most formulations) Excedrin® Extra-Strength Analgesic Tablets and Caplets indomethacin Nuprin®
Aleve® Bufferin® (most formulations) Feldene® Midol® Percodan® Tablets
Alka Seltzer® Children’s aspirin Fiorinal® (most formulations) Motrin® piroxicam
Anacin® Children’s Motrin® Ibuprin nabumetone Relafen®
Anaprox DS® Clinoril® ibuprofen Naprosyn® Voltaren®
Arthritis Pain Formula diclofenac Indocin® naproxen sulindac

For more information, read our resource Common Medications Containing Aspirin and Other Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs).

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7 Days Before Your Surgery

Stop taking herbal remedies and other supplements

Stop taking herbal remedies and other dietary supplements, such as those in the list below. This list doesn’t include all herbal remedies or other dietary supplements. Ask your doctor or nurse if you’re unsure about any supplements.

If you take a multivitamin, ask your doctor or nurse if you should keep taking it.

Echinacea Garlic Gingko (also known as gingko biloba)
Ginseng Turmeric St. John’s Wort
Valerian Vitamin E Herbal formulas

For more information, read our resource Herbal Remedies and Cancer Treatment.

Arrange for someone to take you home, if needed

Talk with your medical team about if you should have someone take you home after your surgery.

If you need someone to take you home, they must be 18 years or older. If you don’t have someone to do this, call one of the agencies below. They will send someone to go home with you. There is usually a charge for this service and you will 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

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2 Days Before Your Surgery

Starting 2 days before your surgery, call your doctor’s office if you feel sick (such as a cold, fever, infection, or upset stomach). Your surgery may need to be rescheduled.

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1 Day Before Your Surgery

  • Don’t drink alcohol for 1 day before your surgery.
  • Shower and shampoo your hair the night or morning before your surgery.
  • Take your usual medications, unless your doctor gives you other instructions.
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The Day of Your Surgery

  • You can eat and drink as usual. If you’re having Mohs surgery, bring lunch or a snack with you.
  • Don’t put makeup, moisturizers, or shaving lotions on the area of surgery.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes or a button-down shirt.
  • Bring your usual medications (such as diabetes medications) that you may need during the day.
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Call Your Doctor or Nurse if You:

  • Have to cancel or change your surgery appointment.
  • Will be traveling right after your surgery. This may affect your appointment.
  • Have any questions or concerns.
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