Questions To Ask Before A Diagnostic Procedure

So your doctor has ordered a diagnostic procedure. Many health care consumers feel uncomfortable asking questions of their physicians. Doctors are supposed to be the one with all the knowledge and expertise and as such, it can be embarrassing and uncomfortable to question their decisions. What questions should you ask before any diagnostic test is performed?

Keep in mind that when you ask questions you are not challenging your physician’s decision or authority. You are merely gathering information so that you can give an informed consent for the procedure. Being informed means that you understand what to expect and what is to be gained. Never lose sight of the fact that this is your body and you have a right to know and understand what is happening. It is best if you take the time to ask questions when the physician is in the room with you. Below is a list of questions you might find helpful when your physician has suggested some diagnostic testing. Keep in mind that you always have the right to refuse the test or to get a 2nd opinion once the test has been performed.

Three Questions to Always Ask:

  1. What is my main problem?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. Why is it important for me to do this?

Other questions to ask:

  • What is the purpose of the test?
  • What will the information tell you?
  • How will the test be performed?
  • Who performs the test?
  • How much experience does that person have in performing the
  • What do you expect to learn from the test?
  • If the information doesn’t confirm the suspected diagnosis, then what?
  • Are there any risks involved?
  • Are there any possible side effects?
  • Where will the procedure be done?
  • How long will the procedure take?
  • How will they deal with any test anxiety you might have?
  • How will they deal with any pain the test might cause you?
  • Will there be any residual pain after the test? For how long?
  • Will you need to be admitted to a hospital before, during or after
    the test?
  • Will my insurance company cover the cost of the test?
  • How and when do I find out the results?
  • What happens if the results are not normal?
  • How do I get written copies of the results?

Once the diagnostic test is completed, three additional questions need to be answered to avoid a missed diagnosis. Those questions are: Was the test actually done? Were the results abnormal? If they were abnormal, will any follow-up testing or evaluation be performed so that a diagnosis can be made or ruled out?


My husband was told by his urologist that he needed a prostate biopsy to rule out cancer of the prostate. The doctor told us that his Physician’s Assistant (PA) would be performing the procedure. I wasn’t comfortable with that. I asked the doctor how many biopsies the PA had performed and was told that he had been doing all of this doctor’s biopsies for the past 7 years. That made me feel much better.

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