Having to undergo surgery can be stressful. It is important that you discuss your health in detail with your healthcare providers.
Ask any and all questions you may have; if you do not understand your healthcare provider’s diagnoses, assessments, and/ or opinions regarding your health, you should ask that healthcare provider questions until you do.
Educating yourself about your health is important and may also relieve some of the stress otherwise felt. This paper reflects a few key questions that you may want to ask your healthcare provider before undergoing an operation.
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Do I need the surgery? Are other options available?
- Is the operation medically necessary?
- Are there other surgery options?
- Do I need to have this surgery right now or can it wait? What happens if I do not have the surgery?
These are important questions best addressed to your healthcare providers. While you may feel most comfortable talking with family and close friends, or even doing your own research or talking with chat groups online, your healthcare providers are in the best position to answer these questions.
Each individual is different and your healthcare providers should have complete knowledge of your medical history, while your friends, family, and certainly the internet, may not.
Also, it is also important to consider that, while a healthcare provider might recommend surgery, in many situations, other, less invasive, options may also be available.
You should discuss these other options with your healthcare provider to make an informed decision as to what is best for “you.” Likewise, you might also want to ask why your healthcare provider recommends a particular surgery and why it is needed.
Something else to consider is obtaining a second opinion; however, in situations involving an emergency surgery, the surgery should be done as soon as possible and there may not be time to get a second opinion. Whereas, when it comes to elective procedures, some health plans actually require a second opinion before undergoing elective procedures.
That said, when obtaining a second opinion, it would be useful to provide that other healthcare provider with all your medical records; this might also help to avoid repeating already performed films or other tests.
What type of anesthesia is going to be used?
Anesthesia often makes people nervous. Once you and your healthcare provider decide that you are going to go forward with the surgery, one of the questions commonly asked is: “what type of anesthesia is going to be used?”
Certain surgeries require specific types of anesthesia, however, some procedures allow for options. The type of anesthesia used might also depend on your current and past medical conditions, allergies, medications being taken, and/ or other factors including your age and weight.
That said, if there is an option, you will want to know the differences, including risks and benefits.
Nevertheless, commonly, when referring to a surgical operation, what comes to mind is general anesthesia, which consists of complete sedation, making the person completely unconscious during the operation.
General anesthesia can be administered different ways, including through an IV or a mask. However, some procedures do not require complete unconsciousness.
For these procedures, local anesthesia or regional anesthesia may be used. With local anesthesia, only the specific area of the body being treated and/ or operated on is numbed, such as a hand or foot; local anesthesia usually only lasts for a short period of time before sensation returns.
Whereas regional anesthesia involves numbing a larger area of the body – for example, epidurals that numb below the for women in labor.
What are the goals / benefits of the surgery?
While your healthcare provider may tell you that a particular operation is medically necessary, in order to make an educated decision, it is also good to know the goals and/ or benefits of the surgery as well as how long those benefits are expected to last.
What are the risks involved? Will medication I take have any impact on my surgery?
While there may be benefits to a surgery, all surgeries also come with risks and, if possible, it is important to consider the risks against the benefits before surgery.
To do this, you should ask your healthcare provider to explain the list of possible surgical risks and/ or side effects and ask any questions to make sure you understand those risks and side effects.
It is also always imperative that you are honest with your healthcare providers and let them know about all of the medications you take as well as all illnesses, diseases, allergies, and/ or other health problems you have or have had in the past.
This is important because certain medications and/ or health conditions may impact your healthcare provider’s decision as to how, when, and even, if, they want to proceed with the operation.
How long before I can return to my usual activities/work?
As you can imagine, recovery time may vary depending on different factors, such as age, health, and specific type of operation.
It is important to know what to expect after surgery; this includes how long the potential recovery time will be, how you will feel afterwards, and whether you will experience any potential limitations.
This is also good information to provide to your family, friends, and employer so that they know what to expect as well. Physical limitations and pain to the surgical area are common complaints after surgery; it may provide some relief to know what to expect ahead of time.
In addition, some surgeries may require post- operative physical therapy, specific medical supplies and/ or devices (e.g., crutches, wheelchair, splints, etc.), and/ or prescription medications.
Knowing what to expect may make the recovery easier, although it should be understood that everyone is different so you should speak with your healthcare provider if you feel you are not moving along as anticipated.
What’s more, it is extremely important that you follow your healthcare providers’ instructions; failing to do so may also result in your recovery period being prolonged.
Please note: this is in no ways an exhaustive list of questions to consider asking your healthcare provider before undergoing an operation; instead, it is simply a compilation of common useful questions to present to your healthcare provider to help better understand your medical care.