At some point, you or someone you love will be facing the prospect of surgery. You can do all the internet research you want, but you can’t find all the answers there. So, what are the questions you should ask your doctor before an operation?
Richard Cohen of West Bloomfield elected to have gastric bypass surgery in July of 2017. He was nervous because he’d never had invasive surgery before.
Fast forward to now. He's lost 141 pounds and is thrilled with the results. But what was the burning question he had before the operation?
“How does my body work after this is done? How am I going to be different?" he recalled.
And he got those answers from his doctor.
Dr. Arthur Carlin is the Division Head of General Surgery at Henry Ford Hospital with a specialty in bariatric surgery. But he said the first question any patient should be asking is:
WHY DO I NEED THIS OPERATION?
It’s basic, yes. But it’s the place to start. Maybe the surgery is elective. Maybe it’s necessary. Either way, you need to understand why you need any surgery.
Dr. Carlin said that question should be followed by:
WHICH OPERATION IS RIGHT FOR ME?
Take his specialty, for example – bariatric surgery.
"We may do a sleeve gastrectomy or gastric bypass being the two most common operations. And there are different risks and benefits with those operations and different outcomes,” explained Dr. Carlin.
He said knowing your treatment options will help you make an informed decision.
Next, don’t be shy! Ask your doctor the frank question:
WHAT’S YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THIS OPERATION?
“They may have done a thousand operations, but if they haven't done it in 5 years, that would be important to know that,” said Dr. Carlin.
So, it’s important to learn about their success rate, any problems they’ve encountered, their certification. If you don't like the answers, seek another opinion.
WHAT ARE THE EXPECTED OUTCOMES?
You need to know what are the possible outcomes – including the risks and complications.
WHAT SHOULD I DO TO PREPARE FOR SURGERY?
Dr. Carlin said there is often a lot you can do to prepare for your surgery and some things could help your outcome or reduce your pain during recovery.
“Stopping smoking, exercising, maybe losing weight, improving their nutrition, sleeping better,” Dr. Carlin said.
Make sure you ask:
WHAT ARE MY ANESTHESIA OPTIONS?
You should take into account your health history and any meds, vitamins, and herbs you’re taking.
The next question is also key:
WHAT CAN I EXPECT AFTER THE SURGERY?
Patients need to know when they can go back to work, when they can start exercising again, when they can resume driving, etc.
HOW WILL MY PAIN BE MANAGED AFTER SURGERY?
There are many other options besides opioids.
And don’t forget:
WHAT WILL BE MY OUT-OF-POCKET COSTS?
Insurance coverage varies from patient to patient. And if your doctor doesn’t know, someone on their support team should be able to help you.
Of course, there are more specific questions you could ask depending on the operation. So, don’t hold back.
And if you’re having a medical procedure outside of a main hospital setting – such as an out-patient clinic -- Dr. Carlin recommends you find out if the facility is accredited and make sure they have the right staffing model there.
You can find more information on the American College of Surgeons website.