Surgery Questions to Ask Your Surgeon

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What is the operation (procedure) that is recommended?

Ask your surgeon for a simplified explanation of the type of operation, technique used, and reasons it should be performed. (Pictures and drawings can tell patients and family a great deal.) Why was this specific procedure chosen over possible alternatives?

What is the surgeon's experience with this procedure?

It is reasonable to ask how often the surgeon performs the particular procedure. Ask the surgeon about his/her experience with this procedure, its outcome, and the hospital or setting in which the operation will be performed. Is the nursing staff accustomed to caring for patients who have had this procedure?

What is the reason that this procedure is necessary at this time?

Is the procedure being done to relieve pain, diagnose a condition, correct deformity, for cosmetic reasons, or what exact purposes? Must the procedure be performed immediately?

What are the options if this procedure is not done?

What are the nonsurgical or medical treatments available to help the condition? What will/might happen if the operation is not done? If the operation is not done at this time, can it be done later? What are the consequences if the procedure is postponed or delayed?

What is the anticipated outcome of the procedure?

What exactly are the expected or possible benefits of doing the procedure? How likely is it that these benefits will result from the procedure?

Where will the doctor perform the surgery?

Surgical procedures may be performed in a hospital operating room or in an outpatient surgical facility, which may be located in a hospital or sometimes in medical offices.

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What kind of anesthesia is required for the procedure?

Is a general anesthetic necessary? Can the procedure be performed under local or regional anesthesia? Are sedatives or other medications required prior to the procedure? What are the risks of the type of anesthesia to be used?

What are the specific risks that this procedure involves?

What are the problems, complications, or conditions that are the risks of the procedure? How common are these complications and potential adverse events? If complications occur, how can they be treated? Is hospitalization required, or can the procedure be performed on an outpatient basis? If hospitalization is recommended, how long is a typical hospital stay?

What about a second opinion?

Obtaining a second opinion is very reasonable for an elective (voluntary, or non-emergency) surgical procedure. This will not be a problem with the first surgeon, who will recognize this as commonplace. Second opinions can reassure anxious patients (and family members) and make the whole process easier for all involved.

What is the recovery process after this procedure?

Procedures vary in terms of wound recovery time and length of rehabilitation programs. It is very important for patients to know the long-term program ahead of time for the best planning. Will pain control medications be necessary? How long will it be until you can resume normal functioning? When can you return to work and recreational activities?

Is this procedure covered by my insurance plan?

Will physician's fees, associated costs, hospital services, rehabilitation programs, and pain medications be covered by my insurance plan? Sometimes the doctor's office staff can be very helpful in securing the answers to these questions. If not, a direct call to your insurer is in order.

REFERENCE:

United States. MedlinePlus.gov. "Surgery." Sept. 9, 2016. <https://medlineplus.gov/surgery.html>.

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Reviewed on 9/12/2016
References
REFERENCE:

United States. MedlinePlus.gov. "Surgery." Sept. 9, 2016. <https://medlineplus.gov/surgery.html>.

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