How to Prepare for Burn Surgery
This handout will describe what you can
expect before, during, and after burn
ξ You may be asked to visit your
primary care provider. This is to
make sure that you are ready for
surgery. You will likely need lab
work, heart tests (EKG), and a
review of your current medicines.
ξ You might be told not to take certain
medicines. This is because some
should not be taken with those given
for surgery. Ask which ones to keep
taking and which ones to stop taking
Day Before Surgery
ξ Your Burn team may let you know at
your clinic visit that you need
surgery. Surgery may happen as soon
as the next day.
ξ Before most surgeries, a nurse will
call you. The nurse will ask you a
number of questions and let you
know when to arrive at the hospital.
You will also learn when to stop
eating/drinking before surgery.
ξ Questions to expect:
o Have you had recent changes to
your health (cold, fever, or flu-
o Do you have your own
equipment and/or devices
(inhalers, CPAP/BiPap machine,
etc.)? If so, bring them with
ξ Drink plenty of fluids the
day/evening before surgery. This
means about 8 glasses of water.
ξ No food or drink after midnight.
That includes NO gum, candy, mints
ξ No alcohol after 8 pm the night
ξ Remove and leave all jewelry and
body piercings at home.
ξ If you need to bring a purse/wallet
and any electronic devices (cell
phone, tablet, etc.), give them to a
trusted family/friend. If this is not an
option, staff can contact staff
security to have your items stored in
ξ Provide a copy of an advance
directive before surgery. If you need
help to complete one, please contact
What to Pack
Just in case you need to stay overnight in the
hospital, plan to bring a few things with you.
ξ An extra set of loose, comfortable
ξ Tennis shoes
Keep these items in the car. Ask family to
bring them to you only if needed. There is
very little space to store items brought from
Day of Surgery
o You will start in First Day
Surgery. You will change into a
hospital gown and have an IV
placed. You will be asked a
number of questions to be sure
you are ready for surgery.
o One family member can stay
with you in the First Day Surgery
area. Other family members will
be asked to wait in the waiting
o Refer to the General Surgery
Packet/First Day Surgery folder
for more details to help you
prepare for the day of surgery.
o Family will get updates on how
you are doing during your
o You will wake up from
anesthesia in the recovery room.
Family cannot be in the recovery
room. Staff will let them know
when you are ready for visitors.
o You may need to stay in the
hospital after surgery. This
depends on how surgery went,
how you recover from
anesthesia, and how you are
coping with pain.
o If you do not stay in the hospital,
you need someone age 16 or
older to drive you home. That
person should stay with you for
the next 24 hours. They need to
monitor your safety because of
the effects of anesthesia. Be
ready to give this person’s name
and phone number the morning
o You may feel a little sleepy for
the next 12 to 24 hours. This is
due to the medicines you receive
during and after surgery.
o Rest and relax for the next 12
hours. Avoid hazardous or
o You may have a sore throat for
the next 24 hours if you had a
breathing tube. Call if the sore
throat is severe or doesn’t go
Restrictions 24 Hours After Surgery
Even if you feel normal, there are many
things you should not do.
ξ Don’t drive a car, motorcycle, or
ξ Don’t operate machinery or power
ξ Don’t drink alcohol or use
ξ Don’t make any important personal
or business decisions.
ξ Don’t sign important papers.
ξ Follow your doctor’s advice about
ξ Be careful when you sit or stand up
after being in bed for a long time.
You may become dizzy if you sit or
stand too quickly.
If Admitted to the Hospital
ξ It is best to eat/drink foods that are
high in protein and calories. A
dietitian will meet with you to
ξ Nurses will help you manage your
ξ Your dressing(s) will be taken care
of by the team of nurses and doctors.
All of the dressings will stay on until
3 days after surgery. On Day 3, the
dressings over your graft and donor
site will be removed. The sites will
be checked and then wrapped with a
new dressing. The team will manage
your pain during this process.
ξ A splint may be placed on the area of
your surgery. This splint is to be
worn at all times for at least the first
3-6 days after surgery. The splint
makes it harder to move that area,
but allows for better success with the
ξ You may be on bedrest. This
depends on where on your body you
need a graft. Bedrest means not
getting out of bed for about six days
after surgery. This means not even
getting up to go to the bathroom. (A
bedpan and/or urinal will be offered
instead.) The reason for this is to
allow the graft to heal as well as
ξ To prevent infection, you will be
bathed with special soaps. Do not
bring your own soap. Please discuss
with your hospital team if you have
ξ As you recover, nurses will teach
you and a family member/friend how
to take care of your wounds at home.
Please think about who this person
will be before surgery. Talk about it
with that person. They will need to
visit you in the hospital 1-3 times to
learn wound care.
ξ When ready to go home, someone
will need to drive you home. Decide
who this will be before surgery and
talk about it with him/her.
Day After Surgery
ξ Pain: keep up with your schedule for
taking pain medicine. Do not drive
while taking narcotic pain pills.
ξ Constipation: Pain pills and being
less active can lead to constipation.
Eat foods that are high in fiber (bran,
oats, fresh fruits and vegetables) and
drink a lot of fluids.
ξ Nausea/vomiting: This can happen as
a side effect from anesthesia and/or
pain medicine. If you vomit more
than twice after getting settled at
When to Call the Clinic After Surgery
ξ You have a fever: If the reading is
above 100.5 F or 38.1° C for two
readings, call the doctor.
ξ You have numbness, tingling or
change in color (turns blue) to the
extremity that had surgery.
ξ More pain and/or swelling of the
affected extremity that does not go
away after raising it up on two
ξ Drainage that is different from what
was taught. Be ready to describe
what the drainage:
o looks like (color, thick or thin),
o how it smells, and
o how much there is.
ξ Your dressings are no longer in
place, wet, dirty, etc.
Follow-up Care After Surgery
ξ A clinic visit will be made for you in
the burn/wound clinic. Your
dressings will be removed in the
clinic. The date you return to clinic
depends on whether you stayed in
the hospital after surgery or not.
ξ Please take pain medicine one hour
before your clinic visit. This will
give you the best pain control with
the dressing change.
Who to Call with Questions
Burn/Wound Clinic: (608)264-8040
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©11/2017 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#8016