What to Ask Your Surgeon Before an Operation

Getting nervous as the big day approaches? You’ll feel more relaxed if you meet with your surgeon beforehand to get your questions answered. He can tell you what to expect and explain how to prepare.  

Where will the operation take place?

Most surgeries used to happen at hospitals, says Frederick L. Greene, MD, FACS, a medical director at the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, N.C. Now many are done in an “outpatient” center, which means you don’t have to stay overnight.

What will happen during surgery?

Ask your surgeon to walk you through the steps. Find out what kind of technique will be used. Also ask about the type of anesthesia you’ll get to keep you numb and pain-free during the operation.

Who will be involved?

A group of professionals will take care of you before, during, and after surgery. Besides the surgeon, there may be an anesthesiologist, nurses, and assisting doctors.

Todd J. Albert, MD, surgeon-in-chief at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, suggests you ask your surgeon who’s on your medical team and how much experience they have.

What will happen before operation?

Ask your doctor to tell you how to prepare. For instance:

  • Will I need to take tests?
  • Do I need to give blood?
  • Are there certain medicines I need to take?
  • Will I have to stop eating or drinking at a certain time?

What’s the recovery like?

Get details about what you can and can’t do after your procedure. You may need to take time off from work or get help to care for yourself or your kids.

Ask your surgeon:

  • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • When I’m home, will I need special help, supplies to care for my surgical cut, or medication?
  • Will I need physical therapy?
  • When will I feel back to my old self again?
  • Is there anything I can do to help my recovery?

Ask for a timeline. “Find out what you’ll be able to do on day 1, day 5, etc.,” Albert says. Many surgeons have a fact sheet with all these things listed.

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