• Consultation with a Surgeon

    Consultation with a Surgeon

    • Need for a Surgeon most often follows a visit to your medical doctor or as a result of an admission to a hospital or an emergency room
    • Advances in surgical care have resulted in more specialization in surgeons’ practices. Make sure you find the correct specialist
    • Advances in surgery have also made it more important to prepare for your consultation so that you ask the right questions and make an informed decision
    • It is important to understand:
      1. The Problem
      2. The Treatment
      3. The Alternatives
      4. The Results
      5. The Risks
      6. The Recovery
    • Communication is key to picking the right surgeon and for keeping any unnecessary, additional strain out of what is already a stressful time
    • Seek a second opinion
    • Confirm Insurance Coverage


    Meeting With A Surgeon

    It’s natural to become worried or upset when your doctor tells you that you need to see a surgeon. However, the referral does not mean that you definitely need an operation. The surgeon is an expert in their field who will give you options that may or may not include a surgical procedure. By asking questions, you can get a better idea of those options.

    What questions should I ask the surgeon?

    • Why do I Need Surgery?

    Once it is determined that you need surgery, make sure you have all the facts. If you do not understand something, ask to have it explained until you do. Ask your doctor for results of lab tests that helped him or her to conclude that you had a problem. If you had x-rays, CT scans or an MRI, ask for a copy of the report. You will need all of these if you seek a second opinion.

    • What procedure is recommended and why? What are the risks and benefits of each procedure?

    Typically, the surgeon will recommend more than one surgery or procedure depending on your diagnosis, examination and laboratory data. It is important that you understand why your doctors are recommending one procedure over another. Knowing the pros and cons of each will help you understand why they came to that conclusion.

    • Are there any alternatives to surgery that I can try?

    Non-surgical options, including doing nothing, are always available. The key is to know what the alternatives are and the risks and benefits of each.

    • What Should I Expect After Surgery?

    You should know upfront what your recovery will be like, what to expect if you have a complication, when you can return to work and normal daily activities, and if there will be any long term consequences. Be sure to ask your doctor if you will need any special treatments after surgery such as physical or occupational therapy.

    • What Type of Anesthesia is Required?

    There are many different types of anesthesia (see: Ch. 16). Which type of anesthesia is chosen depends upon the procedure and other factors. Although your surgeon is ultimately responsible for all that transpires in the operation room, they will in consultation with an anesthesiologist. Many surgeons will use the same anesthesiologist each time, but it is fair to ask your surgeon about how the anesthesiologist will be chosen.

    • How Long will the Surgical Procedure Last? How Long will I be in the Recovery Room?

    For family and friends who will be anxiously waiting, it is great to know an approximate duration of your surgery. This helps everyone be better prepared—arrange for childcare, ensure you have a ride home if you are having an ambulatory procedure, arrange in advance for needed medications and surgical dressing, etc.

    • Will I Need a Blood Transfusion?

    Some surgeries require transfusions. This is important to know before the surgery so that you can plan ahead. You or your family members may sometimes but not always be candidates to donate blood (auto- or directed transfusions).

    • How Much Discomfort will I be in After Surgery?

    This is a question we all want to know but are often too afraid to ask. Different people have different pain thresholds, but your surgeon can give you a good idea of the range of discomfort to expect.

    Should I get a second opinion?

    If surgery is recommended, be sure to check with your insurance company, because some require a second opinion prior to any procedure. Getting a second opinion—even if not required by your insurance company—is recommended because it gives provides can provide alternatives or confirm a diagnosis, helping to lessen your confusion or worry.

    What is a Contract for Surgery?

    By signing the contract you saying that you understand what the procedure is that is being done to you. The surgeon can only do what is on the contract, nothing more, and nothing less. You attest that you understand your alternatives, why you are doing the chosen procedure, what outcome is reasonably expected, and the risks and benefits.

    This is one type of contract where the terms cannot be changed, but where you can withdraw your consent right up to the last minute.

    What sort of pre-op testing should I anticipate?

    Once your surgery is scheduled, you will also be scheduled for pre-operative testing. Pre-op testing can be more or less inclusive depending upon the patient’s age and medical condition. A child having a procedure such as an appendectomy usually needs nothing more than a few blood tests and a urinalysis; whereas a 64-year-old woman having surgery will need medical clearance, an electrocardiogram, perhaps a chest x-ray, a full panel of blood tests, a urinalysis, and possibly other tests depending upon the type of surgery and any medical problems she may have. The purpose of pre-op testing is to ensure that you are in a satisfactory condition to have the procedure. Naturally, in emergency situations there is often little time to react so pre-operative testing is limited.

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