3 Questions You Need to Ask Before Surgery
It’s normal to feel apprehensive before any surgical procedure. Doctors perform about 51.4 million inpatient surgeries each year, and another 53 million outpatient procedures annually in surgical centers and clinics throughout the United States.
Fortunately, most surgeries are extremely safe, and complications are rare. However, no surgery is completely without risk. Knowing what to expect and which questions to ask before your procedure can help minimize your fears and ensure you have a positive experience.
Why Do I Need This Procedure?
Your doctor or surgeon should thoroughly explain what surgery is being performed and what he or she is trying to accomplish. Some surgeries are exploratory, which means the surgeon suspects a problem and is trying to get a proper diagnosis. Other procedures are necessary for relieving pain or removing a growth or part of the body that is impeding body function.In some cases, there are reasonable alternatives to surgery. Despite the relative safety of surgical procedures, there is always risk involved, however minute. Some health problems are stable enough to use a “wait and see” approach. Other conditions may respond well to less invasive treatments, such as medication or physical therapy. Your doctor should present all of your options, including doing nothing. In explaining the surgery, your doctor should also tell you where it’s being performed and which health professionals will be involved in your procedure. Many operations require the help of a team of doctors. For example, your procedure may require a general surgeon, as well as your doctor. You will also likely need an anesthesiologist or a nurse anesthetist to administer the medication necessary to put you to sleep and to monitor your vitals during surgery. You may wish to meet these physicians prior to your surgery. At the very least, they should consult with you immediately prior to your procedure.
What Outcome Can I Expect?
Just as your doctor should explain the procedure, he or she should also give you a clear idea of the outcome. Although everyone responds differently to surgery, your doctor should have a good idea of the likelihood of success, as well as how your body will respond to the operation. Ask your doctor how many times he or she has performed the procedure in the past, and what kind of results he or she has seen in other patients. For example, some surgeries require a day or two of recovery time, during which pain and discomfort can be managed with over-the-counter painkillers. Other procedures require days in the hospital and a lengthy recovery. Some conditions respond well to surgery; other conditions have a less favorable success rate. Knowing what to expect when you wake up will help you adjust your work and social schedule and plan for any help you may need in the days and weeks following your procedure.
What Are the Risks of This Surgery?
Patients are required to sign consent forms before any surgery, however minor. This can be a scary process, as these forms are likely to list every known complication, even if the risk of something bad happening is infinitesimally small. Talk to your doctor about these risks. Your physician can explain the reasons why complications have occurred in the past, as well as steps he or she will take to ensure your surgery progresses safely.
Communicating with Your Doctor
Most doctors are busy people. Patients often feel like they don’t receive the individual attention they need to feel comfortable or wholly informed. If you are unsure about any part of your surgery, let your doctor know. When your health and well-being are at stake, you deserve a thorough explanation and clear answers to your questions.
Some patients find it helps to write questions down in advance of seeing their doctor, as this helps you stay focused and ensures you don’t forget anything when you have your doctor’s attention.
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