Questions to Ask Before Surgery

Questions to Ask Before Surgery

Important Questions To Ask Before Having a Surgery:

Only the rare person escapes having to go under the knife at least once in his/her lifetime. Millions of Indians undergo surgery each year. Before selecting your surgeon, or agreeing to go ahead with a surgery, it's important that you are fully informed. All surgeries have risks and benefits which you should familiarize yourself with before deciding whether the procedure is appropriate for you. The following are some important questions you should review with your physician prior to surgery. Ask your physician to explain the answers clearly and ask for further clarification if you are having trouble understanding an explanation and/or any medical terms. Some patients find it helpful to write their questions down ahead of time and bring a tape recorder to help them review the information discussed before making a final decision.

What is The Procedure Being Recommended?

Your physician should clearly explain the surgical procedure, explaining the steps involved. You should ask if there are different methods for performing this operation and why he or she favors one way over another.

Why is The Procedure Necessary?

Reasons to have surgery may vary from relieving or preventing pain to diagnosing a problem to improving body function. Ask your physician to specifically explain why this procedure is being recommended for you and make sure you understand how this may improve your medical condition.

What are The Benefits Of The Surgery and How Long Will They Last?

It is important that your physician outline the specific benefits of having surgery for you. You should also ask how long the benefits typically last. Some benefits only last a short time, and could possibly require a second operation, while others may last a lifetime. Also, ask your physician about published information regarding the outcomes of the recommended procedure. This will allow you to make an informed decision and have realistic expectations about the surgery.

What are The Risks and Possible Complications Of Having the Operation?

Surgery always carries some risks, so it is important to weigh the benefits against the risks before surgery. Ask your physician to outline the possible complications, such as infection and bleeding, and possible side effects that could follow the procedure. You should also discuss pain and ways to manage any pain that may follow the procedure.

What Happens If You Decide to Delay The Operation Or Do Not Have The Operation?

If you decide, after weighing the benefits and risks of the surgery, not to have the operation or delay the operation, what will happen? You need to know whether the condition will worsen or if there is a possibility that it may resolve itself after certain period of time.

Should I Obtain a Second Opinion?

Asking another physician or surgeon for a second opinion is an important step in ensuring that this particular procedure is the best option for you. A second opinion can help you make an informed decision about the best treatment for your condition and can help you weigh the risks and benefits against possible alternatives to the surgery. Remember, in the case of emergency surgeries, the surgery should be performed as quickly as possible and, most likely, there will not be time to obtain a second opinion. The necessity of getting a second opinion should always be weighed against the severity and urgency of the medical condition.

What is The Physician's Experience in Performing This Procedure?

You can minimize the risks of surgery by choosing a physician who is thoroughly trained and experienced in performing the procedure. You may ask the physician about his or her experience with the procedure being performed, including the number of times he or she has performed it, and his or her record of successes, as well as complications. Below are some more relevant questions that you may ask: Do you have any additional certification/qualifications that make you more experienced in performing this operation? What is the rate of complications that you experience with this kind of operation? Can I speak to any of your past patients?

Where Will The Surgery Be Performed?

Until recently, most surgery was performed in hospitals. Today, however, many procedures are done on an outpatient basis or in ambulatory care centers. This lowers the cost of these procedures since you are not paying for a hospital room. Certain procedures still need to be performed on an inpatient basis. Be sure to ask your physician why he or she recommends either setting. Below are some more questions you may ask about the hospital. What are the back up medical facilities there, if something goes wrong during the operation? How often do you operate there? Where else do you operate? What is the post-operative infection rate at the clinic/hospital where the operation will take place?

What Can I Expect During Recovery?

Ask your physician what to expect in the first few days following surgery, as well as in the weeks and months that follow. You need to know how long you will be hospitalized, how much pain is it normal to expect after the operation, how long will the pain last, what limitations will be placed on you, and if there are special supplies or equipment you will need upon discharge. Knowing ahead of time what to expect will help you to cope and recover more quickly following the surgery.

What Type Of Anesthesia Will Be Administered?

Your physician should tell you whether a local, regional, or general anesthesia will be administered and why this type of anesthesia is recommended for your procedure. You should also ask who will be administering the anesthesia, an anesthesiologist or a nurse anesthetist; both of whom are highly qualified to administer anesthesia.

What Are The Costs Of The Surgery?

Because health plans vary in their coverage of different procedures, there may be costs you will be responsible for. You will need to know what the specific costs of the operation will be and how much your insurance or health plan will cover. These may include, but are not limited to, the following: The surgeon's fee for surgery Hospital fees (if you require hospitalization): Check with the hospital's business office regarding these rates; your physician or surgeon should be able to give you an approximate idea of how long you will be in the hospital Separate billing for other services: You may also be billed separately for the professional services of others who might be involved in your care, such as the assisting surgeon, anesthesiologist, and other medical consultants.


Above are just some general questions that might help you understand. But based on the type of surgery, you might have to ask certain specific questions. We recommend to all patients to read and be informed as much as possible before going through any surgery. We firmly believe patients having good knowledge and asking right questions at right time would reduce chances of things going wrong by a great extent.

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Reviewed By:

Dr. Kaushal M. Bhavsar (MBBS, MD)

Assistant Professor in Pulmonary Medicine, GMERS Medical College, Ahmedabad