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Five Questions to Ask Your Surgeon Before An Operation

From the Mayo Clinic

The news that you will need surgery can prompt many questions and a lot of anxiety. Beyond details about your medical condition and treatment options, what should you ask your surgeon before the operation? Whatever you need to ask to be comfortable with the decisions you make about your care, says Robert Cima, M.D., a colon and rectal surgeon and chair of Mayo’s surgical quality subcommittee.

 “You are the one who has to know if it fits in with your life and your family’s life to do which type of procedure when. So it’s important for you to feel comfortable asking your surgeon if this is the best option, are there other options, is this the best place for me to do this?” Cima says. “It’s your body, it’s your disease; you should feel comfortable asking those questions before you enter into something as major as surgery.”

Cima, who was interviewed for the Mayo News Network, suggests inviting family members or friends who will help you recover to accompany you and to ask any questions they have. He also proposes adding these five questions to your list:

Are you board-certified to perform this procedure?

Board certification is a credential that physicians earn in addition to state medical licensure. It means surgeons are qualified to perform a particular type of operation, such as cardiovascular surgery.

“They are recognized by the institution as well as the national organizing body for that specialty as having met all the important standards for practice, competency and background,” says Cima, who is board-certified in general surgery and colon and rectal surgery.

They may have submitted their case logs and had their outcomes reviewed. More recently, as part of the national effort to improve health care, many boards now require recertification, in some cases every three to four years, so surgeons maintain their skills and show growth in their knowledge, Cima says.

“It is a marker of someone who is committed to high-quality care and who is trying to stay abreast of the knowledge and the changes in health care in their specialty,” he says.

In addition to asking your surgeon, you may also look him or her up on the American Board of Medical Specialties website or your state medical licensing board website; some boards post physician profiles that include board certification.

Will it help if I lose weight before the operation?

Obesity is a risk factor for almost all major complications after surgery. For surgical patients, a healthier weight is better, Dr. Cima says.

It can often be difficult for people needing surgery to exercise, especially those waiting for knee or hip replacement; consult with your care team to find safe methods. Building strength can be as important as burning calories; sometimes known as “prehabilitation,” it can include such goals as building arm and grip strength in elderly patients.