Essential Facts To Check Before Surgery

surgeonThis is a guest post by Paul Taylor.

Many times getting older means that we will be having more surgical operations. Not that bad health always comes with age, but it often can. I was reading just the other day an article in which they had polled several doctors and surgeons asking them their advice. I’m going to share with you some of the advice they gave and the questions they suggest you ask before surgery.

major surgery

Some of it is very interesting, especially because it comes from behind the scenes and from the doctors themselves.

  1. Ask Who Knows About His/Her Work – A great way to find out if your surgeon is a good one is to ask hospital employees what they think about the doctor/surgeon. The article said that the employees of the hospital will know better than anyone and their word trumps an Ivy League degree, charm, or a prestigious title. It makes sense when you think about it. After all, these are the people that work with him/her frequently and really know about what (s)he is doing.
  2. Ask About Complications – Another doctor said to be sure and ask the surgeon about their complication rate. He stated that if they say they don’t have one then they either hadn’t operated long enough or they are hiding something. He said no one was immune to complications. It is also important to ask your doctor what complications are most common, what can be done to avoid them, and what the risks are of not performing the surgery.
  3. Ask About Certifications – You should always check to see if your surgeon is board-certified in his specialty. It seems that many are not. They compared using a surgeon that was not board-certified to an airline pilot that was not FAA-certified. If he failed the exam would you get on the plane? Make sure you know what your doctor is qualified to do. You may need to see a specialist if your case is complex or requires something your current doctor is not qualified for.
  4. Shop around for the best Doctor – Don’t just take your primary care doctor’s recommendation, many times referrals may be politically motivated. Either that or it’s because they work in the same multi-specialty group. You should do your own research, ask around, and find out who the best doctor is within your plan to care for you. There may be someone even your primary care doctor has not heard about.
  5. Ask For References – Get references by talking to former patients. If they won’t give you any of their names it’s probably not a good sign. You would get references for a baby sitter before you let them stay with your child and this is equally as important. It is not rude to ask your doctor this. It is just smart.
  6. Ask for a Second Opinion – One doctor said that you should always get a second opinion because sometimes surgeons won’t even tell you about procedures they don’t know how to do. For instance they may tell you that you need an open hysterectomy even though it could be handled laparoscopically. Another doctor may also have knowledge of new treatments that the first one was unaware of. Take your time and know what you are getting into.
  7. Ask About After-Care – Another thing to ask before going into surgery is who is going to be taking care of you after the surgery. If they don’t tell you they will be seeing you on a regular basis until you recover, many times you are seen by residents, physician’s assistants, or no one at all once you leave the hospital. If this is the case, then you might need to set up your own care arrangement. Make sure you have after surgery care in place before you go in for the procedure. It is a lot harder to figure that sort of thing out afterwards than it is just to set it up before you go in.
  8. Set a Date – Have your elective surgery early in the week and not towards the end of the week. Many doctors go out of town for the weekend and if something happens you will be talking to the person covering for the surgeon. It is also advantageous to have your surgery scheduled when your doctor is not going on vacation, a business trip, or has other important obligations.
  9. Take Your Family – Always take a member of the family with you for your preoperative appointment. This is to remind your doctor that you are not simply a bypass, a hysterectomy, or a gallbladder; you are a person who is loved by a family.
  10. Ask Who is Putting you to Sleep – You should be as diligent in your search for an anesthesiologist as you are for your surgeon. The anesthesiologist is very important since they are responsible for you in your unconscious state.  If you find a good surgeon ask them who they recommend. In some hospitals you can request that person.
  11. Ask for More Tests – Never rely on just one pathology exam. If your results come back and your doctor finds something of concern then ask him/her to send the slides (all of them) to a nationally recognized reference lab. Get a second interpretation. This particular doctor said he had a patient that had sent his own slides out to three different pathologists and got back three different results. Pretty scary stuff.
  12. Ask About the Risks – The consent forms are full of complications and risks that they want you to sign off on regarding your particular surgery. The thing to do is ask your surgeon what the risks are that they are most concerned about.
  13. Donate Blood – Discuss with your doctor about donating your blood or family members donating their blood before elective surgery. If you need blood there is a chance your body will react to banked blood. It’s a foreign substance, like an organ, and your body may try to reject it. Your own blood and blood from close relatives has a drastically reduced chance of complications.
  14. Ask Who Will Be There – Here’s something to think about. This doctor said that residents have to learn how to operate but it’s required that an attending physician be present. But that doesn’t mean he has to be in the operating room. You need to make sure your surgeon (if he’s not the one doing the surgery) will be actively present and participating in the surgery.
  15. Ask if Surgery is Really Necessary – Several surgeons confessed in this article I read that they get paid ten times as much money to do surgery than to manage your problem. Ask them if the surgery can wait or if there are non-surgical options. They said that sometimes they are very busy and would rather operate.
  16. Know What Signs To Be Concerned About – For example after surgery on your foot, if you experience pain in your calf or it gets red or swells you should call your doctor right away. Those symptoms are those of a blood clot which is a risk of just about every surgery.
  17. Follow All Instructions – Make sure you follow all the post operative instructions. This is a concern to many surgeons. It is not the surgery itself but when patients are noncompliant afterwards with important instructions that complications can arise.

These are just some of the facts and questions that the article covered. I know that the next time I have to go to surgery I will ask my doctor these questions and find out everything I can before I go under the knife. Hopefully you too can use some of these questions to safeguard your health.

Reference: 50 Secrets Your Surgeon Won’t Tell You – Reader’s Digest

Author Bio:  Paul Taylor and his wife Julie both spend quite a bit of time coming up with ideas and researching all things related to childcare, which they then feature on their blog The goal is that this blog will be a complete reference on all things related to using a babysitter.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Army Medicine via photopin cc

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