News and Publications

Pre-operative investigations: what they are and what to expect

Posted: 21/02/2023

Following our recent article on post-operative care, this article focuses on the reasons for investigations before surgery, what tests may be done, and what happens if the right investigations are not made.

What are pre-operative investigations?

Before surgery, unless it is an emergency situation, patients will usually undergo various tests and investigations to make certain that they are suitable candidates for the surgery involved, and to ensure that the surgeon is aware of everything they need to know for that particular patient. For example, the patient could be pregnant, have a condition they were unaware of, or already be on medication that could affect their treatment.

This means that testing should be done before the patient undergoes surgery. Routine testing can include, but is not limited to, blood tests, urine tests and radiology. What the tests are looking for will differ depending on the patient and the particular type of surgery being recommended.

Some of the tests may be done by a primary care physician (eg by the GP) and these should also be taken into account by the hospital where the operation is taking place.

What tests will be done?

The investigations required will differ depending on the patient’s specific circumstances. For example, it would be appropriate for some patients to have a pregnancy test, but for others – if there is no chance of them being pregnant – this would not be needed. Patients with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or heart conditions may also require certain testing that others do not.

The testing will of course depend on the type of surgery planned as well. Minor surgery, such as removing a skin lesion, would require much less extensive testing than a major operation such as a hip replacement. Before the operation, the surgeon should go through the tests being recommended with the patient to explain why these are being suggested.

What should patients expect?

Patients who are due to have surgery should have the opportunity to discuss their care with their consultant beforehand to ensure that they understand and consent to the treatment being offered. This should involve being advised of the tests required before the operation, as well as the operation itself and the likely recovery period. The patient should be given the opportunity to ask questions about the benefits and risks of any treatment being offered, as well as any reasonable alternatives, so that they can consent fully. The NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) guidelines confirm that patients should be given information about the tests offered before surgery so that they can consent.

What if the right investigations are not done?

Unfortunately, on rare occasions the correct pre-operative testing is not done and so not all the crucial information is known to the surgeon. In some cases, this can lead to unnecessary complications such as infections, the requirement for surgery to be repeated, a longer recovery period and/or increased pain and suffering for the patient. Although it is rare, such errors could lead to very serious and even fatal consequences.

The timing of pre-operative testing is also of key importance, and we sometimes unfortunately see cases where the correct tests have been done, but too long before the surgery, by which time the patient’s circumstances have changed.

Penningtons Manches Cooper has a specialist team of surgical negligence solicitors who deal with the full spectrum of surgery related medical negligence claims. If you think you may have a claim, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of the team for an initial discussion.


Related articles

Arrow GIFReturn to news headlines

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under number 419867.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP