Millions of people undergo surgeries every year. But, while many procedures are routine, they are far from normal for the patients undergoing them.
If you’ve never had surgery before (or even if you have) preparing for a procedure can be scary. Learning more about what to expect can help ease your nerves
Whether you’re having surgery soon or are just starting to talk to your doctor about a possible procedure, keep reading. We’re breaking down 12 important questions to ask your surgeon before your operation takes place.
1. Where Will Operation Take Place?
Many hospitals and clinics feature several locations where different procedures and visits take place. The office that you’ve been visiting to meet with your doctor and talk about the surgery might not be where your treatment will take place.
Oftentimes, procedures are performed at surgical centers, where doctors have access to the tools and equipment they need and there is a higher nurse to patient ratio for specialized pre- and post-surgery care.
Make sure to ask where your surgery will be performed.
If you are undergoing a major operation or are nervous about an upcoming procedure, you can also ask to visit the facility ahead of time. Going back to a familiar place can sometimes help ease some anxiety
Take note of where your procedure will take place. It can be easy to get confused on the big day and end up going to the wrong location. In some cases, you may need to have someone else transport you, so you’ll want to have an address ready to give them.
If your procedure will take place in a large facility, you should also make sure that you know where you’re going once inside. If someone is dropping you off, be sure to give them clear directions in case you aren’t able to on the day of your surgery because of pre-procedure medications.
2. What is the End Goal of this Operation?
You should already have an idea of why an operation is necessary. Maybe you were in an accident and suffered injuries that have prompted the surgery. Or perhaps you’ve experienced chronic pain and your doctor is recommending surgery.
But neither of those is the true end goal of the operation.
To find this, you need to talk to your doctor. While you might be hoping for relief from pain, your doctor is out to treat the root of that pain.
3. Is this Procedure a Cure?
Going along with learning the end goal of your surgery, you should also ask whether it will cure your condition or completely repair your injury.
If the answer is no, you can then talk to your doctor about future treatments or operations that you might need to undergo.
4. What Will the Operation Involve?
Besides understanding what the end goal of the operation is, it’s also a good idea to ask what will actually take place during the surgery.
It’s important to understand what will happen to your body during an operation. Knowing this can help you better plan for your recovery and understand any discomfort you may have.
Ask for a simplified summary of what the doctor will do during the operation. Your doctor may even offer pictures or diagrams to better explain the process. (After all, it won’t do any good to have it explained to you if you don’t understand the explanation.)
5. Who Will Perform the Operation?
Your regular doctor isn’t a surgeon. If you’ve been talking to him or her about possible surgery, odds are that they will refer you to a specialist next. That specialist may be the one performing your surgery or they may be referring you to a different surgeon.
Even if you think you know who will be performing the procedure on you, you should always ask just to be sure.
Just as visiting the clinic or hospital where your surgery will take place can help ease your fears, so can meeting with the surgeon who will perform the procedure.
6. What Kind of Anesthesia is Required?
There is always a potential risk when anesthesia is involved. Understanding exactly what type of anesthesia is required will not only help you be better prepared for your procedure but will also allow you to understand the risks involved.
There are 4 types of anesthesia. The most common is general anesthesia. (It’s also the strongest form.) With this type of anesthesia, the patient is unconscious during the procedure.
The next type of anesthesia is regional anesthesia. Rather than rendering the patient completely unconscious, this type of anesthesia affects only the area of the body where surgery is being performed.
Local anesthesia is similar to regional anesthesia in that the patient remains conscious. But rather than numbing an entire arm or leg, local anesthesia is used on a smaller area. This is often used for minor procedures, particularly ones where the patient will go home immediately after surgery.
The final type of anesthesia is Monitored Anesthesia Care or MAC. With this type of anesthesia, sedation is delivered via an IV. The patient remains awake, though groggy, throughout the procedure, allowing them to follow important instructions.
Patients can sometimes go home on the same day after this type of anesthesia is used, once it has worn off completely.
7. What Can You Expect of Your Recovery?
One of the biggest things that patients often want to know is what their recovery will be like.
Will you be able to leave the hospital the same day or the next day? Or are you looking at a lengthy hospital stay? Will you be able to care for yourself immediately after the procedure?
Will you have to go to rehab after surgery? Will you ever regain full function of the body part undergoing the procedure? Will you need to take pain medications or other medications?
Asking these questions will allow you to best prepare for life after your procedure. You may find that you need to request additional time off of work, plan for attending therapy sessions, or ask a family member or friend to stay with you immediately following your surgery to help you perform basic tasks.
8. What are the Risks Associated with this Surgery?
While the potential risks of surgery may not be enough to deter you from having the procedure, you should always talk to your doctor about what to expect.
Many risks are very common and routine. For instance, nearly everyone experiences some pain following surgery. If the pain is severe, your doctor might prescribe you medications to offer relief.
Other common, but minor side effects include nausea caused by the anesthesia, confusion upon waking up from surgery and loss of muscle after having to lie immobile for an extended period of time.
Talking with your doctor can help you prepare for these side effects and plan to do all that you can to avoid them, such as eating foods that won’t upset your stomach or moving as much as possible to keep your muscles active.
9. What is Your Doctor’s Experience with this Procedure?
You have a right to know your doctor’s level of experience when it comes to a specific procedure.
Unless you are working with a very young doctor, you’ll likely find that your surgeon has performed this procedure many times. This can help set your mind at ease going into your procedure and knowing that you are in very competent hands.
10. Can You Take Your Regular Medications the Morning of Your Surgery?
If you are on any kind of medication at all, from birth control to allergy medicine, ask your doctor whether it is safe to continue taking before your surgery.
He or she might recommend that you stop taking your medication until after the procedure.
11. Do You Need to Take Any Specific Medications Leading Up to the Procedure?
In some cases, you may be required to take specific medications ahead of your surgery.
It’s important to ask about these far ahead of time. These medications might include some that make you drowsy and would require you to have someone else drive you to and from your surgery.
12. When Should You Stop Eating Prior to Your Surgery?
Any time anesthesia is being used, your doctor is likely to ask you to avoid eating or drinking for a certain amount of time before your surgery.
This is because when our bodies are under the effect of anesthesia, we are less able to prevent stomach acid and food from entering our lungs and causing aspiration. While the threat of aspiration is rare, it can be deadly if it does occur.
Preparing Yourself for Having Surgery
Having surgery doesn’t have to be a scary experience. By asking the right questions and preparing yourself properly ahead of time, you can make sure your procedure goes as smoothly as possible, that way you’ll be well on your way to recovery right out of the operation room!
Not yet scheduled for surgery? Check out our services to learn more about how we can help.