Undergoing a surgery is a pretty big decision to make, and so it is absolutely necessary to be as informed as possible about the decision you are making. How is this going to happen without asking questions? So, here is a list of questions that you can ask your surgeon, so that you are better informed about the surgery you are about to undergo.
Backache is a pretty serious problem, and it can severely limit your movements. It can really frustrate you over a period of time, if none of the medicines and exercises are working. In such a case, if you think that surgery is the only option left for you, then how to go about the whole process? The first thing to do would be to glean as much information as possible from your surgeon, about the procedure that you are planning to opt for. I’ve categorized these questions to make things simpler. Here goes…
About your Condition
- What is the exact cause/ source of my backache?
- I’ve tried several non-surgical treatments so far. Are there any other non-surgical options that I’ve left out? (Make sure you mention all the treatments that you have tried.)
- What will happen if I do not opt for surgery? (This is in case your doctor has recommended the surgery.)
- Will my condition deteriorate if I do not opt for surgery, or will this be the maximum level of discomfort/ pain that I will feel?
About your Surgery
- What is the exact nature of the surgery that is being recommended for me? (If some surgery has been recommended to you.)
- Is there any other alternative surgery to the one I am opting for, that is less invasive and risky? (If you have opted for the surgery and are not aware of the alternatives.)
- What is the success rate of this surgery?
- What is the exact procedure? Can you explain it in (some/ complete) detail?
- How long will the surgery last?
- What if, once the operation is underway, you realize that the problem is more complicated than you anticipated?
- Are there any long-term side effects that I will have to live with?
- Will there be any consequences of the surgery that will hamper my current lifestyle?
- Is this a recognized procedure or a relatively new procedure?
- What are the benefits, risks and complications associated with this surgery?
- What preparation will I have to do on my part, before coming in for this surgery?
About the Surgeon Himself and the Hospital
- How much experience do you have? (It is advisable to check the qualifications of the surgeon that you have chosen, before going and talking to him personally.)
- How many such surgeries have you performed? What is your success rate?
- Will you be performing the surgery alone or will you be assisted by other surgeons and/ or interns?
- May I have the numbers of a few of the patients that you have operated on, to get their feedback about the surgery?
- Does this hospital have all the equipment required for performing the surgery? Or will I be operated on, in some other hospital?
- Is the equipment in perfect working order, and can I take a look at the equipment if possible if I wish to?
About the Other Doctors Who will be Required to Assist During the Surgery
- What is the experience of the other doctors who will be assisting you for this surgery?
- How many people will be assisting you?
- Are they surgery interns or established surgeons?
- If they are interns, are they up to the challenge? Have they assisted a surgery before, or is this their first experience?
- If I am not comfortable with inexperienced interns being a part of my surgery, will they be substituted by others who have more experience?
- Can I talk to them so that I can figure out whether or not I am comfortable with them?
About the Risks and How They Apply to You Personally
- What are the risks associated with this surgery?
- What are the side effects of the surgery and how long do they last?
- Knowing my medical history, what are the chances that I will suffer from side effects?
- Knowing my medical history, am I a good candidate for this surgery? (This is if you have decided to opt for surgery without the recommendation of any doctor.)
- If not, then what are the changes that I need to make in order to undergo this surgery? Can I do anything to improve the chances of its success?
- What will be the worst case scenario, if the surgery fails?
About Postoperative Care, Follow-up Procedure and Costs
- What all measures will be included in the postoperative care?
- Will I have to wear a brace after the surgery, or take pain medication for a long time?
- How many weeks will the postoperative care last for?
- Will the hospital staff and resources be available to help me with the postoperative care?
- Will there be regular checkups, as a part of the follow-up process, to monitor my progress?
- If I experience any problems after surgery, will there be a doctor who will be available anytime I have problems?
- How long will I be hospitalized?
- How frequently will I have to keep coming back to check on my progress, and to ensure that no complications are developing?
- When do I start the physical therapy, and for how long will I have to follow it?
- When will I be able to resume my normal activities like jogging, driving, etc.
- If this is a new procedure, then will it be covered by my insurance or will I have to pay for it separately?
- What will be the cost of the procedure?
Remember, if your surgeon is good and confident about his abilities, then he will have no problem answering your questions, even if you are a little probing. It is a big decision, so you are entitled to all the information and knowledge that you want, so do not hesitate before putting forth your doubts, no matter how silly they may seem to you or the doctor. Choose your surgeon wisely, and talk to him, to see if you are comfortable with him. If he gets defensive and withholds information, be alert for any warning signs. Rely on your instinct. If you are satisfied with all the answers, and decide to proceed with the surgery, then I wish you good luck and a speedy recovery. Take care!