Surgery 101: What Should You Ask Before Having Surgery?

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When you’re having surgery – there are a few things you should know – and a few questions you should ask. And who better to give that advice than medical professionals.

“One of the first things I would ask is, ‘Have you done this before?,’” said Monica Jones, RN, BSN, CNOR, Surgery Unit manager. “And I’d also want to know if this is a procedure that the hospital routinely does. We do thousands of procedure each year. And we have years and years of experience doing those procedures.”

Patients may also ask questions when choosing where to have surgery. Studies show that for some types of surgery, numbers count – and using a surgeon or hospital that does more of a particular type of surgery can improve your chance for a good result. If your surgeon suggests using a hospital with a lower success rate for your surgery, find out why.  “Of course, patients trust their surgeon – and are going to turn to their surgeons when gathering information before surgery,” said Charlotte Pate, RN, CNOR. “But many patients also want to do their own research.”

Most surgeries also require patients go through pre-surgery testing. This helps ensure that the patient is healthy enough to have the surgery – and gives the surgeon important information about the patient’s condition prior to surgery. The Pre-Admission Testing Unit at Rapides Regional Medical Center for example, can complete all testing days before surgery – and offer important patient education about what will happen before, during and after the procedure.  “That’s a big deal for someone who’s never had surgery before and doesn’t know what to expect,” Pate said. “Most patients want to know what to expect,” said Joy Hicks, RN. “But they also want to know that you’ve done this before and that you have a plan – and you’re going to be able to take care of them, no matter what.”

Another question many patients put at the top of their list is – “How much will I have to pay?”  At Rapides Regional Medical Center, the admitting office staff work with patients’ insurance companies to make sure the insurance will pay for surgery – and find out how much patients will be expected to pay for on their own.  “We communicate with every patient and let them know how much their estimated out-of-pocket expense will be, when they’ll need to pay that and how they can pay that,” said Denise Moss, Rapides Regional Medical Center patient access director. “We try to work one or two weeks ahead, so every patient should hear from us.”

Medical experts also suggest patients ask their physician these questions before having surgery:

• Why do I need an operation?

• Are there alternatives to surgery?

• What are the benefits/risks?

• What if I choose not to have the operation?

• What kind of anesthesia will I need?

• What exactly will happen during the surgery?

• What happens if something goes wrong? Where would I be transferred if the problem can’t be treated here?

• How long will I be in the hospital? Out of work?

• How will you take care of my pain?

No matter what, patients need to understand that they are in control of their healthcare. It’s a requirement for every hospital that every patient be informed and involved in all decisions regarding their care. It’s their health – and it’s their right.