There are risks involved in every surgery no matter how minor or major the procedure might be. Doctors and patients should be able to talk openly about what is going to happen and what could potentially happen during or after the operation. Unfortunately, some patients may not ask the right questions simply because they have no way of knowing what to ask. This could result in their entering a surgical procedure feeling more nervous or emotionally unprepared. To help guide patients through surgical procedures in a more safe and informed way, we enlisted the help of a number of health professionals to weigh in on the best questions to ask before a procedure takes place.
Dr. Sharma noted that patients often do not ask about assistive devices they may or may not need after surgery. Doctors and health professionals should inform patients of any movement restrictions that might require an assistive device. If you don’t know about your recovery process ahead, it is important to ask your doctor prior to your procedure so that you can be prepared for what’s to come.
Nurse Lee stressed the importance of asking a doctor about follow-up appointments. Doctors will not always call patients to schedule a follow-up, so it is critical that a patient is aware of the appropriate follow-up’s specific to their procedure in case one needs to be scheduled by the patient him or herself post-surgery. Nurse Lee cautions that follow-up appointments are typically a week or two post-procedure. Patients should always have a good contact number for the doctor in case there are any questions or concerns.
Dr. Corey noted that the vast majority of surgeons are well-trained and competent in the United States. But, he explained that it is still important to get more background information on a surgeon prior to scheduling a procedure. Dr. Corey likes to inform his patients on where their surgery falls on a complexity scale of 1 to 10. He also added that it is important for patients to ask about postoperative recovery care.
Dr. McFadden cautioned patients who are diabetic to be especially proactive, since they face a higher risk of complications during and after surgery, and are particularly susceptible to infection. Patients should never assume their diabetic status is known, and should always disclose it just in case it was overlooked by the healthcare professionals overseeing their care. Knowing a patient is a diabetic will allow healthcare professionals to pay special attention to glucose levels and ensure proper antibiotics are used if necessary.
According to the CDC, nearly 50% of people take at least one prescription drug per month. These medications can affect a patient’s surgery, so Dr. Pierre advises patients to talk to their doctor or surgeon about any prescriptions they may be taking. Even non-prescription drugs such as aspirin and/or other blood thinning medications can cause adverse effects during surgery, so Dr. Pierre suggests disclosing any and all medications prior to a procedure.
Dr. Mendelsohn advises patients to trust their instincts when it comes to choosing a surgeon, as a patient’s gut feeling can be one of the most important factors. He suggests patients consider a doctor’s bedside manner to optimize a surgical experience. Most patients agree that bedside manner is an important component of selecting a doctor. Patients should feel like their health professional is trustworthy, accommodating, and accessible for any questions and concerns before, during, and after a procedure.
Dr. Chaboki prepares for each of his surgeries by reviewing patient charts, photos, and relevant tests such as CT scans. Then, Dr. Chaboki reviews the plan with the appropriate surgical team, including the anesthesiologist and nurses who will be involved in a patient’s care. This communication helps maximize a patient’s safety. Patients should ensure their doctors are engaging in a similar type of communication / check-in with all relevant medical staff prior to their procedure.
Dr. Khorsandi explains that good surgeons and doctors are generally happy to provide information on their professional background and qualifications. Patients should pay special attention to how often their surgeon performs the type of operation they’re in need of and whether the surgeon belongs to surgery-based professional groups. Doctors and surgeons should be honest and upfront about any potential side-effects or complications of surgery.
Dr. Badia feels that doctors should be expected to break down the technical aspects of a surgery so a patient is more comfortable with what they are going to face on the day of their operation. He also reaffirms that patients must know what is to be expected in postoperative recovery and/or rehab in case their experience is abnormal or unexpected. If patients are not told these things prior to surgery, they should be proactive and ask their doctor right away.
Surgery can be an anxious and nerve-racking experience for a patient, especially when patients are unfamiliar with the medical procedure they’re about to receive. The above suggestions, though not all-encompassing, are a good starting point for patients that are confused about what to ask prior to their upcoming surgery. As a patient, make it a priority to stay informed and don’t hesitate to ask your doctor if there is something you’re worried about. This will help ease a patient’s concerns prior to the day of surgery.