Questions to Ask Before Surgery

Questions to Ask Before Surgery

Important questions to ask before having surgery

Millions of Americans will undergo surgery each year. It is important for patients to be informed about the surgery being recommended, particularly if it is elective surgery (an operation you choose to have performed), rather than an emergency surgery (also called urgent surgery). All surgeries have risks and benefits which you should familiarize yourself with before deciding whether the procedure is appropriate for you.

The following are 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.

It is important to remember that a well-informed patient tends to be more satisfied with the outcome or results of a procedure.

Tips for communicating with your physician

It is important to communicate your feelings, questions, and concerns with your physician prior to having surgery. The following suggestions may help to improve communication between you and your physician:

Learning about your surgeon

It is important to have confidence in the physician who will be performing your surgery. Whether this is someone you have chosen yourself, or a physician or surgeon you have been referred to, you can make sure that he or she is qualified to perform this operation. This may include any/all of the following:

Determining the costs of the procedure

Before you have surgery, discuss with your physician his or her fees, as well as other fees you will incur. These may include, but are not limited to, the following:

Check with your health plan prior to surgery to be certain of what portion of the costs you will be responsible for. If your anticipated costs present a problem, discuss other financial solutions with your physician prior to the surgery.

Obtaining 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.

Several health plans now require and will pay for patients to obtain a second opinion on certain nonemergency procedures. Medicare may also pay for patients to obtain a second opinion. Even if your plan does not require this, you still can request a second opinion.

If you decide to get a second opinion, check with your health plan to see if it is covered. Your primary care physician or hospital can provide you with names of qualified physicians. Be sure to get your medical records from your first physician so that the second one does not need to repeat tests and procedures.

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.

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