Preparing For Surgery

The stress of needing surgery:

Being told you need surgery is a very stressful experience. Patients have lots of fears, including great anxiety related to the ultimate diagnosis. Do I have cancer? What will they find? Will I die on the table? Who will care for my children while I’m in the hospital? Who will collect my mail? Who will care for my pets? Will I lose my job? How will I pay for it? … to name a few.

Emergency vs Elective surgery:

When you require emergency surgery there is little or no time for preparation. Most people, however, experience what is called elective surgery. Elective surgery involves making an appointment to have the procedure done. Patients having elective surgery usually have plenty of time to prepare themselves and their families for their surgical experience and subsequent recuperation.

How you find a surgeon:

Most patients will be referred to a surgeon through their primary or family physician. If you trust your primary/family physician, there should be no reason why you wouldn’t trust the surgeon he/she refers you to. Be sure to tell your primary doctor that you want a surgeon who is as caring and nice and competent as ” you are “.

Sometimes family or friends refer you to a surgeon that they have used and really trust. That is fine as long as the surgeon is in your health insurance network. You can find out whether they are in-network by calling your health insurance company or by visiting their website to see their list of in-network surgeons. You can use a surgeon that is out-of-network but you may either not be covered for this surgeon at all or at a lesser out-of-network percentage. Just be sure to let your primary/family doctor know you are interested in another surgeon. Give your primary the name of this other surgeon and ask for his or her opinion of the surgeon’s clinical competence. Clinical competency is of the utmost importance when having surgery. You want a surgeon who is skillful.

Be prepared for your visit:

Be prepared for your visit to the surgeon. Bring a patient advocate with you. Patients tend to miss a lot when stressed out and it is likely that you will be stressed out during or as a result of this visit. Bring any diagnostic test results with you, such as XRays, MRI’s, C-T Scans, special blood tests, etc. Encourage the surgeon to be upfront and candid with you. Write down all of your questions in preparation for the visit to make sure you get them all answered. Your Patient Bill of Rights gives you right to have all of your questions answered in terminology that you can understand. No questions you have regarding your health concerns are silly. If the doctor gives you the impression that they are silly, you may want to find another surgeon.

The following questions need to be answered:

  • Why do I need the surgery?
  • How many times have your performed this surgical procedure?
    ( you want to make sure your surgeon is highly experienced and skillful)
  • Will it be done in Same Day Surgery or will I need to be hospitalized?
  • If I need to be hospitalized, for how long?
  • What are the most common complications?
  • What is the the expected surgical outcome ?
  • How will my pain be managed?
  • How long will I have pain?
  • How long will it take me to be able to do my normal activities?
  • When can I expect to go back to work?

If you have any doubts be sure to get a 2nd opinion. The initial surgeon should not hold that against you. Patients do it every day.

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