Questions to ask if you are having surgery or procedure

Whenever someone is told that they need a procedure (e.g. endoscopy or heart catheterization) or any surgery, they should ask the following questions from their doctor.


Why do I need this procedure or surgery?

It might seem stupid, but usually people aren’t sure why they need any specific procedure or surgery to be performed. Usually there are non-invasive or less invasive ways to manage the issue too. Therefore this should always be asked along with questions like:

Are there any other options?

Sometimes the suggested procedure or surgery is just one out of several options available. It’s your right to know the options and then discuss with your doctor regarding your choice and what’s best for you. Decision of undergoing a surgical procedure is usually based on:

  • How much are they bothered by the issue?
  • How much will the procedure or surgery help them?
  • What are the risks involved?
  • Is there any attendant available at home to take care of them during recovery after surgery?
  • How long would be the recovery phase?
  • Would the procedure or surgery help in relieving the pain and symptoms they currently have?
  • How much pain the procedure or surgery would cause?
  • How long would they have to miss work or routine?


What if I don’t have this procedure or surgery?

There are conditions that can aggravate and get worse if left unmanaged by surgery, some may remain as they are and some may even get better over time. If surgery isn’t the absolute requirement to get relief from the symptoms and they’re not bothering much too, the patient might decide to try the alternates to surgery or procedure.


Is there more than 1 procedure or surgery for same goal?

Sometimes there can be multiple ways to treat the same issue. Ask your doctor if there are any options available and what’s the difference between them in detail to decide what’s best for you. Some main options for surgery and procedures include:

  • Open surgery – This involves making incisions large enough to allow surgeon to see and work on the part of body being operated directly and easily
  • Minimally invasive surgery – The surgeon makes minimum incisions and uses special instruments that can go inside the body while being controlled from outside
  • Percutaneous procedures – The surgeon or interventionist accesses the required part of body through the skin by inserting a special tool and advancing it to the required area. Example includes endovascular procedure where the blood vessels of heart are accessed by inserting the tool from the blood vessel in arm or leg through the skin.
  • Endoscopic procedures – In these procedures, the doctor uses an endoscope, a thin tube with a camera and light at its end to go through body’s natural openings. This is used in finding and treating conditions in regions like upper gastrointestinal tract (gastrointestinal endoscopy), urinary bladder (cystoscopy) and uterus (hysteroscopy).


What are the benefits and risks of procedure or surgery?

Even the minor procedure and surgeries carry risks, at least minor ones. Make sure that you know the procedure and any risk associated with it in detail.

Some of the questions to ask from your doctor are:

  • How many chances of benefit are there? How long would those benefits last?
  • What are the comment side effects and risks involved? How long would they last?
  • What are the most serious side effects and risks involved? Even the uncommon ones?


What if I want a second opinion?

No doctor is supposed to be bothered or worried with your choice of having second opinions so don’t be afraid to ask. In fact your doctor should help you in finding the best interventionist or surgeon related to your specific case.

You can have the list of surgeons for your particular case from your primary care doctor or form the people you know who already had similar procedure or surgery done before.


What type of anesthesia will I need and what are the risks involved?

Type of anesthesia used during the procedure or surgery does have some impact on the risk factor of the overall procedure, even if it’s relatively small. Even the minor procedures or surgeries have risks associated with them related to the anesthesia used.


What will my recovery be like?

Most people don’t know what they should expect during the recovery phase following the procedure or surgery. It’s important to have the answers to following questions before the procedure:

  • How much pain should I expect and how long after the procedure or surgery?
  • How can I manage the pain during the recovery phase?
  • How long would I be admitted in hospital after the procedure or surgery?
  • Will I need assistance once I’m discharged home?
  • Will I be able to drive, climb up and down the stairs, go to work, do routine tasks, etc. normally after the procedure or surgery? If not, how long would it take till I can do them?
  • How long would it take for me to resume work?


How much experience does my surgeon or interventionist has?

Don’t forget to ask your surgeon or interventionist about how many of these procedures or surgeries advised to you has he done in the last one year? Also make sure that the hospital you’ll be undergoing the procedure has experience in handling patients undergoing this type of procedure or surgery that you need. Don’t take it light, you need the hospital as well as the doctor with the most experience overall and in that particular procedure or surgery too.

Before opting for the procedure or surgery, inquire if this procedure or surgery is performed in any specialized centers? You may or may not decide to get it done in the specialized center but knowing the options will help in deciding the best one.

It’s best to get treated at specialized centers for some types of procedure or surgeries like weight loss surgery done at a specialized center dedicated to this type of surgery because the patients undergoing this procedure need to be consulted by various specialist related to obesity along with the center specialized and optimized to meet the needs of people undergoing weight loss surgery.


How much will the surgery or procedure cost?

Patients may have to pay some part of the expenses themselves, even with insurance coverage, depending upon the surgery or procedure and cost involved. It’s better to inquire in detail before undergoing the procedure or surgery. Get the detailed price quote from the hospital and discuss it with the insurance company directly. If the cost of the procedure or surgery is an issue, discuss with your insurance provider and doctor if there are any less expensive alternatives that you can afford.