Published on May 21, 2018

Questions to Ask Before Surgery

#RealLifeRx: Insight from Chief Medical Officer, Sharon Kiely

Sharon C. Kiely, MD, Senior Vice President, Medical Affairs & Chief Medical Officer and David D. Yuh, Chair, Department of Surgery

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So you have been told that you need to have an operation… this is a scary thought for anyone. While we played the famous board game as children- the real thing does not resemble that experience at all.

Whether the surgery your doctor is recommending is simple or complex, or invasive or minimally invasive, you understandably have many questions. Below are the questions to ask before surgery. 

Why do I need surgery?

Yes, you probably already know the answer to this. But don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for a spoken or written medical explanation you can share with your loved ones. If you haven’t gotten a second opinion yet, now might be the time to do so.

What if I decide not to have surgery? Will the condition worsen? Are there other options?

This question begs an honest look at your individual situation. Your doctor will help weigh the pros and cons of this decision. In many cases, it’s important for you and your doctor to exhaust all medical options before electing surgery. We know this is not always the case and not always possible, however.

Can the surgery wait a little longer?

The answer to this may or may not impact your course of action. If the surgery is, indeed, an emergency then it’s likely in your best interest to proceed. If not, perhaps you can “buy some time” while you get a second, or maybe third, opinion.

What does "elective" surgery mean?

Elective surgery is a procedure that is usually scheduled in advanced because it does not involve a true medical emergency. There is a wide range of procedures that can be considered elective. Plastic and cosmetic surgeries oftentimes fall into this category.

Will I need to be hospitalized?

Some surgeries are done on an outpatient basis, when you don’t need to stay in the hospital and are able to return home the same day. Others require brief or extended hospital stays. Your doctor will go over what you can expect so you can be well informed and engage your family and friends in any help you might need while you’re away from home.

What are the potential complications?

This is perhaps one of the most important questions to ask. Certain operations can come with some degree of complication, ranging from minor to high risk. If your doctor has recommended surgery, it’s likely because the long-term benefits outweigh any associated risk.

How can I best prepare for surgery?

The best preparation starts well before your surgery. It’s also important to understand how you’ll feel after surgery and into your recovery. This detailed guide breaks down all the questions you should ask your doctor every step of the way.

How long is my recovery going to be after surgery?

The answer to this very much depends on your medical condition and on the procedure itself. Your doctor and care team will provide you with a roadmap of what you can expect, as well as guidance on next steps such as physical and/or occupational therapy.

I have a high deductible health plan. How will I pay for surgery?

We always say not to let your financial worries get in the way of making important healthcare decisions. However, with the ever-changing healthcare landscape, it’s often difficult to put that philosophy into play. First and foremost, speak with your insurance company to explore alternative options if you are not able to meet your deductible. Some employers also offer flexible spending or a health savings account, methods by which tax-free money is set aside to finance medical-related needs. Regardless of whether surgery is in your future, it’s extremely important to understand the options available to you despite the overwhelming nature of the information.

The road to healing and recovery begins well before your surgery. To learn more about surgery at Stamford Health or to consult with our surgeons, visit our surgery page.