Top Questions to Ask Your Surgeon

It's the end of the year, your deductible is met and it's time to have that procedure you have been putting off.  The struggle is real.  You need surgery, the office is packed, the surgeon may seem rushed, you don't know if this is the right surgeon or if you should even do it.  My advice is to come prepared for your appointment.  Know your problem and be concise in explaining to the doctor.  Write down your questions ahead of time and bring them with you.  Bring a friend or relative to listen to the appointment if appropriate. It doesn't have to be a struggle.

Here are the top questions you should ask your surgeon when contemplating an elective procedure.

  • Will you explain the procedure in detail?  You will want to know what type of incision you will have and if you will require a general anesthetic.  Is the procedure outpatient or inpatient?
  • Am I healthy enough to have the procedure? If you have other medical problems, you want to ask if there are risks involved or if you need to be seen by your family doctor or other specialist prior to surgery.
  • What are the risks of the procedure? All procedures have risks.  Most surgeries will have risks of bleeding or infection.  There are unique risks associated with each surgery.  You should ask about the specific risks for your procedure.  There are also health conditions that increase risks such as diabetes, smoking and heart disease. You should inquire about your health and the associated risks.
  • What can you do to prepare for surgery? Smoking cessation and blood sugar control have been shown to decrease risk of infection.  Ask if there are other measures that you can do to improve your postoperative outcome.  Getting good rest, following a low fat diet and exercise are some examples.
  • Does your surgeon have an enhanced recovery after surgery program? Many surgeries have published recovery programs that improve outcome.  These may involve a special diet, medication or therapy both before and after surgery.  These kinds of programs have been shown to decrease length of stay in the hospital and decrease need for opioid medications.  Ask your doctor if they have a program like this for your particular procedure.
  • Will you need help at home after surgery? Do you need to have family or friends available?  Will you need a nursing home?
  • How long will I be off of work? You will want to ask about activity restrictions and how long these restrictions are in place.  Make sure you have all of the appropriate paperwork.
  • What will happen if you don't have the procedure? Many people forget to ask this question.  Sometimes it is dangerous to wait on a procedure while some procedures are safe to wait.  Make sure you understand the timing and safety.
  • Do I continue my medications? Many medications such as blood thinners and vitamins must be discontinued prior to surgery.  Make sure you understand what to take and what to hold.
  • Are you comfortable doing my procedure?  Do you recommend a second opinion? Ask if your issue is something your surgeon is comfortable in and feels good about doing.  Most surgeons will be honest and refer you elsewhere if your problem is not in their wheelhouse, especially if you ask.

In summary, be prepared and concise.  Have your questions written down and don't be shy about asking.  I love when the patient turns in the list to my nurse, so I am prepared to answer everything that they are concerned about.  This is especially helpful if you sense the office is particularly busy or running behind.  

It's that time of year!  Come on in!