Considering Surgery

If your doctors recommend surgery, there are many things to consider. Surgery can improve your health, relieve pain or slow a disease. At the same time, the prospect of surgery can be scary. The cost and the time away from work can be a hardship. Research and discuss with your primary care doctor and surgeon before having a non-emergency surgery.

Ask about the benefits and risks
  • Ask your surgeon or doctor what you will gain by having the operation.
  • Ask how long will the improvements last. Your surgeon will help you to be realistic about what you can expect to gain from your surgery.
  • Ask your doctor if there is anything you can read to help you understand the procedure and its likely results.
  • All operations have some risk.Ask your surgeon about complications you could experience.
  • If you have other health problems, ask if they increase your risk of complications.
  • Ask you surgeon about side effects you can expect — such as swelling or soreness around the incision.
  • Discuss the recovery period. How long will you be away from work?
  • Ask your surgeon about pain during the procedure and what the doctors and nurses will do to alleviate it.

Alternatives to surgery
Surgery may not be the only answer to your medical problem. Medicines or treatments other than surgery, such as a change in diet or special exercises, might help you.
  • One alternative to surgery may be watchful waiting. You and your doctor can wait to see if your problem gets better or worse over time. If it gets worse, you may need surgery right away. If it gets better, you may be able to prevent or delay the need for surgery.
  • Ask your surgeon what you will gain — or lose — by not having the operation now. Could you be in more pain? Could your condition get worse?
  • Your surgeon can help you to understand the risks of not doing the surgery. Understanding the downside to not having surgery can make the prospect of surgery less daunting.

Get a second opinion
  • You may want to ask another surgeon to review your medical file to make certain that surgery is the best option for you. Your insurance company may require a second opinion for some procedures.
  • Ask your primary care doctor for the name of another surgeon to review your file.
  • Make sure you get your records from the first doctor, so you won't have to repeat tests.
  • Call your insurance company to find out if they cover an appointment for a second opinion.


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