Questions You Should Ask Before Having SurgeryFifteen million people undergo surgery in American hospitals each year. Most of these are not emergency surgeries and are therefore considered elective; this means that, since the surgery is on a non-emergency basis, that may be time to consider the necessity and implications of your surgery as well as the processes involved in the procedure and the recovery. Before you go in for your surgery, there are a few questions that you may want to ask so that you can be sure that the surgery is the right option for you and, if it is, that it is being done as safely as possible:

What are the alternatives to surgery in my situation?

It’s estimated that over 12,000 deaths in the U.S. each year can be attributed to unnecessary surgeries.  The fact remains that, if you don’t have to have surgery, you shouldn’t get surgery. Sometimes surgery is the best option, and sometimes it is the only option.  However, sometimes other alternatives are cheaper, less risky, and have a shorter recovery time. You can’t always count on the objectivity of someone who benefits from you choosing surgery to offer information up to you about your alternative options.  Ask them about all the alternatives to surgery, and if you are able, seek a second opinion.

What will the operation cost?

Even if you have health insurance, there will probably be some amount that you will have to pay. In addition, the cost of the surgical procedure will have an effect on your insurance premiums. Before deciding on surgery, you should find out what that effect will be, what percentage the insurance company will pay, and what payment plans are available for the leftover balance that you will be paying out of pocket. You can find out most of this by calling your insurance adjuster. Be sure to confirm what you are told in writing.  Ask the company to confirm what they told you in writing.  The prospective surgeon will also be able to tell you, as well, what the additional costs will be including prescription medications and follow-up visits.

What are the risks associated with this operation?

Any surgery, no matter how small, includes some amount of risk. This is not to discourage you from getting an operation that you need.  But, it’s important to be aware of the things that may happen as a result of getting an operation.  This is also a matter of comfort. You will experience some side effects after a surgery. Having your surgeon tell you what to expect will better prepare you to know what is normal and what requires attention.

How long will it take me to recover?

When looking at the cost of an operation, it’s important to consider recovery time. Beyond the out-of-pocket cost of a surgery, the time spent out of work can be economically damaging. Furthermore, the time you spend immobile can cause your body and mind stress, so you’ll want to learn how to maintain your physical and mental health while you’re unable to carry out your regular activities. Find out how long it will take for you to recover, what kind of supplies and equipment you will need to facilitate the healing process, and when you can get back to work and regular exercise.

What are my surgeon’s qualifications?

There is nothing overly-forward or improper about asking your surgeon how qualified they are to perform your surgery. Find out what their credentials are, how many times they have performed the surgery, and what the results of the operation have typically looked like. Inquire about the complications that the particular surgeon has seen in procedures like the one you require. Ask which facility the operation will take place in and how often the same procedure is done at that hospital.  Be educated about the procedure, about the probability of success and the complications that may arise as a result of your surgery.

It is important that you feel comfortable asking these questions and that you understand the answers.  If you are uncomfortable with asking the questions, print off this article and hand it to your doctor and ask him to answer the questions for you.  It’s okay to ask your primary care doctor or prospective surgeon to explain things in a different way, or more clearly, if you are confused about something. You never have to get a surgical procedure based on “because I said so.” Surgery is a big decision, and you have every right to fully understand the implications. Ask the right questions, make the right choice, and remember that you’re in control.

Last updated 7/5/2015