When you are preparing to have surgery, it is important to ask questions and talk openly with your surgeon. Having a list of questions and writing down the answers can help you feel informed and take an active role in your health care.
Feeling comfortable asking questions
Preparing for surgery can be daunting and you may have many questions about what will happen. It is important you understand as much as possible about your procedure because this procedure is your choice and cannot proceed until you give consent. Ask for more information if there is anything you are unsure of.
Remember, when you have questions about your health care, it is your right to have them answered. Having your questions answered facilitates good communication and can help you feel respected, informed, and involved in your own care—all important healthcare rights. Asking questions whenever you are concerned, in or out of hospital, can help you stay safe. Remember: You always have the right to ask for a second opinion.
Here is a list of some of the questions you may like to ask your surgeon:
Deciding to have surgery
Questions that can help you make an informed decision about having surgery include:
- What is the procedure being recommended? Why do I need it?
- Are there any alternatives to this procedure, such as medications or lifestyle changes? What happens if I don’t have the procedure?
- How will the surgery benefit me and how long will the benefits of the procedure last?
- (In the case of a joint replacement) What type of prosthesis will I need and why? Are there other options to consider? Will you receive a commission or benefit from the manufacturer of the prosthesis?
- What is your experience in this type of surgery?
- What type of anesthesia will be involved?
About your medications
Ask well in advance of your admission date if you need to stop any prescribed or over-the-counter medications before surgery particularly if you are taking drugs such as:
- A blood thinner like aspirin or warfarin
- Medications for diabetes
- Complementary and alternative medicines
Questions to consider asking about your recovery include:
- How long will it take until I can get back to your normal activities?
- How will I know I am progressing with my recovery?
- What problems and complications might occur and when should I call the doctor?
- What kind of exercise can I do and will I need any help to do this?
- What should I do to protect my new joint?
- Will I progress to rehabilitation in a hospital or be able to return home?
- When will I be able to return to work or drive?
- Are there any long-term limitations I need to be aware of due to my new joint?
When surgery is essential, it may feel uncomfortable to ask about costs. As a patient, you have the right to know the costs of the procedure before you proceed. This is called informed financial consent. Questions can include:
- Can the doctor provide a written estimate of the procedure and associated costs?
- Does the doctor provide a ‘no gap’ payment option?
- Does the treatment include a prosthesis? If so, will I be responsible for any out-of-pocket cost?
These are only some questions you may like to ask. Think about any other questions you may have for your surgeon and make a note of them ahead of your appointments.
Jocelyn is a doctor and professional health and medical writer with 20 years’ experience in the health industry. She has extensive experience in a range of approaches to improving the delivery of healthcare such as clinical governance, quality use of medicines, and developing high-quality health communications for consumers and health professionals.