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Nine important questions to ask your surgeon before your surgery.
Preparing for surgery can be a big undertaking. However, in the midst of your preparation don’t forget to get all your questions answered before the surgery. Write down questions if you have to and ask your primary care doctor or surgeon. Don’t be afraid to ask what you think is a silly question. To help you prepare for surgery, here are nine questions to get you started. Ask these questions before your surgery, as well as any others that come to mind.
1. What is done during the surgery?
Ask for a clear description of the operation. If necessary, ask the doctor to draw a picture to help explain exactly what the surgery involves. Find out if there are alternative surgical procedures. Are there alternatives to surgery? Sometimes surgery is the only way to correct the problem. But one option might be watchful waiting, to see if the problem gets better or worse.
2. How will surgery help?
A hip replacement, for example, may mean you’ll be able to walk comfortably again. To what extent will the surgery help, and how long will the benefits last? You’ll want realistic expectations.
3. What are the risks?
All operations carry some risk. Weigh the benefits against the risks. Ask about the side effects of the operation, such as the degree of pain you might expect and how long that pain will last.
4. What kind of experience have you had with this surgery?
How many times has the doctor performed this surgery, and what percentage of the people who have had the surgery had successful results? To reduce your risks, you want a doctor who is thoroughly trained in the surgery and who has plenty of experience doing it.
5. Where will the surgery be done?
Many surgeries today are done on an outpatient basis. You go to a hospital or a clinic for the surgery and return home the same day.
6. Will I be put to sleep for the surgery?
Your surgery may require only local anesthesia, which means that just part of your body is numbed for a short time. In case of general anesthesia, you are put to sleep.
7. How long will the surgery and recovery take?
Many surgeries can be done relatively quickly and don’t require an extended stay in a hospital. However, it may be different for your surgery, so you should ask. Also ask whether you’ll need to stay overnight in the hospital, or perhaps stay several days.
You’ll want to know when most people are able to resume their normal activities, such as doing chores around the house and returning to work. You may think there would be no harm in lifting a sack of groceries after a week or two. But there might be. Follow your doctor’s advice as carefully as possible. Also ask your surgeon if you’ll have any restrictions on what you can eat or drink before or after the surgery.
8. What will it cost me?
Health insurance coverage varies. You may not have to pay anything. You might have a deductible to meet. Or perhaps you’ll have to pay a percentage of the cost. The doctor’s office can usually give you information about this, but you also need to check with your insurance company. Be aware there will be both a surgeon’s fee and a hospital or facility fee — know the cost of both. Be certain to know if you are responsible for a flat copay — a set amount for the surgery — or if you have to pay a percentage of the bill. There’s a big difference.
9. Should I get a second opinion?
If, after asking all these questions and others, you still have unanswered questions, are unsatisfied with the answers or are still uncomfortable about surgery, you may want to consider the advice of another doctor.
A second opinion, also called a consultation, can be a good way for you to get some more perspective on your surgical options. If you seek a second opinion, do so with someone with expertise doing the surgery. Your primary care doctor may be able to help suggest someone for a second opinion. Keep in mind that a second opinion isn’t necessarily any better than the first one. If there’s disagreement, or agreement, between the two opinions, it’s still up to you to evaluate what choice you feel most comfortable with.