Preparing for anesthesia before surgery

This website resource describes how to prepare for anesthesia before surgery if you are undergoing anesthesia at Vancouver General Hospital or UBC Hospital. Preparing for your surgery is one of the most important parts to improving your outcome after surgery. Small steps can lead to decreased complications and faster recovery.

Fasting before surgery

It is important to fast prior to all types of anesthesia. If you are not fasted prior to anesthesia, there is a risk that food and drink in your stomach can go down into your lungs. This can be very dangerous. If you are not fasted before elective surgery, it is not safe to proceed. 

These instructions apply to adults having non-emergency surgery.  If your surgeon has given you specific fasting instructions that are different to these, please follow them. 


  • Have no food after midnight if your are having surgery the following day
  • It is safe to eat a regular meal the night prior to anesthesia.


  • You will be told when to arrive at the hospital for your procedure. It is safe to drink clear fluid until one hour before your arrival at hospital. 
  • Clear fluids include water, clear apple or clear cranberry juice (no pulp), black coffee or black tea.
  • Tea or coffee must not have any milk in it
  • Do not drink alcohol prior to your anesthetic 

Anesthesia medication FAQs

  • I was told not to eat after midnight the night before my surgery, should I take my medications when I am fasting?

    Medications can be taken on the day of surgery at your usual times with small sips of water, except for the medications that you have been instructed to stop prior to surgery.

  • I already had my appointment at the Preadmission Clinic and received a Medication Instructions Sheet. I only see some of my medications in the STOP section of the medication table. Can I take the medications that are not listed on this table?

    For simplicity, we have only listed the medications that need to be stopped prior to surgery. If your medication is NOT in this table, then you can continue taking it at the usual time, including on the
    day of surgery.

  • Will I need to use my own medications when I stay in the hospital?

    The hospital will supply your medications during your stay. However, if you are on a medication that our hospital does not routinely stock, our Preadmission Clinic Pharmacist will inform you to bring that medication for use during your hospital stay.

  • My medications have changed since my appointment at the Preadmission Clinic. Who should I talk to?

    Please call the VGH Preadmission Clinic at 604-675-3670. Our clinic staff will update your chart and inform you of any new medication instructions, if applicable.

  • Do I need to bring my medications to the hospital?

    Yes, please bring all your prescription medications in their original containers or bubble packs to the hospital with one exception - do not bring your narcotics to the hospital. On the day of surgery, one of our pre-operative nurses will verify your medications before your surgery.

  • I already had my appointment at the Preadmission Clinic but I forgot which medications I need to stop before surgery.

    You should have received a sheet titled: MEDICATION INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE YOUR SURGERY.  If your appointment was over the telephone, the instruction sheet should have been emailed to you. If you cannot find your sheet, please call the VGH Preadmission Clinic at 604-675-3670 and we can provide you with a new copy.

  • I forgot to stop my medications before surgery as instructed. Will this affect my surgery?

    Please call the VGH Preadmission Clinic at 604-675-3670 and one of our pharmacists will review your medications with you.

  • I was instructed to hold some of my medications before surgery. When do I restart them?


    After your surgery, your surgeon will decide when it is safe to restart your medications.

  • My medications are in blister packs. I don’t know which one I should stop before surgery.

    You can bring your blister pack along with the medication instruction sheet to your community pharmacist and they can help you to identify which medications to stop. If you are not able to reach your community pharmacist, please call the VGH Preadmission Clinic at 604-675-3670 and one of our pharmacists will assist you.

  • I was asked to stop my anti-inflammatory pain medications 4 days before surgery. How should I manage my pain in the interim?

    You can take Tylenol as an alternative when you are not taking your anti-inflammatory pain medication. If Tylenol is ineffective, you can take Advil up to 1 day before your surgery.

  • I take some vitamins and supplements. Do I need to stop them before surgery?


    Yes. Some supplements may contain blood thinning properties or can interaction with medications given during Anesthesia and Surgery. For your safety, we recommend stopping all vitamins and supplements 1 week before your surgery.

More about preparing for anesthesia before surgery

Managing anemia before surgery

Reducing or quitting smoking or vaping before surgery

Blood sugar control before surgery

Preparing for surgery if you are frail

Preparing for surgery if you have chronic pain