Medical Care

Getting Ready for Surgery

Have you been told by your doctor that you need surgery? If so, you’re not alone. Millions of older Americans have surgery each year. Here, from the National Institue on Aging, is what you need to know before an operation:

For most surgeries, you will have time to find out about the operation, talk about other treatments with your surgeon (medical doctor who does the operation), and decide what to do. You also have time to get a second opinion.

Questions to Ask

Deciding to have surgery can be hard, but it may be easier once you know why you need surgery. Talk with your surgeon about the operation. It may help to take a member of your family or a friend with you. Don’t hesitate to ask the surgeon any questions you might have. For example, do the benefits of surgery outweigh the risks? Risks may include infections, bleeding a lot, or a reaction to the anesthesia (medicine that puts you to sleep).

Your surgeon should be willing to answer your questions. If you don’t understand the answers, ask the surgeon to explain more clearly. Answers to the following questions will help you make an informed decision about your treatment:

What is the surgery? Do I need it now, or can I wait?

Can another treatment be tried instead of surgery?

How will the surgery affect my health and lifestyle?

What kind of anesthesia will be used? What are the side effects and risks of having anesthesia?

Will I be in pain? How long will the pain last?

When will I be able to go home after the surgery?

What will the recovery be like? How long will it take to feel better?

What will happen if I don’t have the surgery?

Is there anything else I should know about this surgery?

Choosing a Surgeon

Your primary care doctor may suggest a surgeon to you. Your state or local medical society can tell you about your surgeon’s training. Try to choose a surgeon who operates often on medical problems like yours.

Getting a Second Opinion

Getting a second opinion means asking another doctor about your surgical plan. It is a common medical practice. Most doctors think it’s a good idea. With a second opinion, you will get expert advice from another surgeon who knows about treating your medical problem. A second opinion can help you make a good decision.

You can ask your surgeon to send your medical records to the second doctor. This can save time and money since you may not have to repeat tests. When getting a second opinion, be sure to tell the doctor about all your symptoms and the type of surgery that has been suggested.

Medicare may help pay for a second opinion. If you have a private supplemental health insurance plan, find out if it covers a second opinion.

Informed Consent