Surgery Questions You Should Ask

Surgery Questions: What You Need To Know Before Surgery

Surgical utensils
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There are many important questions that you should ask before having surgery. Some you should ask your surgeon, others require a call to you insurance company, friends and loved ones.  This list may help you find a qualified surgeon, prevent you from having surgery unnecessarily and help make your recovery flow as smoothly as possible. 

While these questions are not appropriate for every surgery, you can use them to create a personalized list of questions that you should ask your own surgeon, better enabling you to determine if surgery is right for you and how best to prepare for the procedure.

Questions To Ask Your Surgeon About The Surgical Procedure:

What are the alternatives to this procedure?

In what ways will my life be different after this surgical procedure?

What is the proper name of the procedure?

What are the risks of the surgery?

What are the risks of anesthesia?

Are the risks for me greater than other patients for any reason?

Is this procedure necessary? What will happen if I say no to having surgery?

What type of anesthesia will I be given?

Is this procedure a cure?

How long will the benefits of the procedure last?

Will this be an inpatient or outpatient procedure?

What type of incision will be used? Will it be an open procedure or a minimally invasive, or laparoscopic, procedure?

What medications should I take the morning of my surgery?

When should I stop eating prior to my procedure?

Questions About the Surgeon's Credentials:

Are you board certified in a surgical specialty?

How often do you perform this procedure?

If you needed this surgery, who would be your surgeon?

More Questions To Ask Your Surgeon

surgeon in mask image
Surgeon In The OR. Photo: © Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

In addition to the questions you should ask your surgeon about the benefits and risks of your surgery, you should also ask additional questions regarding your recovery.  Determining the amount of time you will be away from work and activities before you have surgery will help you better plan for the financial issues and work issues during the recovery phase of your surgery.

Questions To Ask About Your Surgery:

What kind of scarring can I expect?

Are there any special instructions that will help speed my recovery?

What type of incision care will I be expected to do after surgery?

Under what circumstances would my outpatient procedure require being admitted to the hospital overnight?

Will I need to arrange for help or home health services during my recovery?

What type of follow-up care will I require?

Will I need physical therapy regularly after surgery?

Will I be able to drive myself home after the procedure?

How will my pain be managed after surgery?

How will my diabetes be managed during and after my procedure?

What prescriptions will I need to take in the time following my surgery?

How long will I require prescription medication after surgery?

Can I have my prescriptions filled prior to surgery so they are available when I return home?

How long will I expect to be in the hospital?

What is a normal recovery like after this procedure?

What limitations will there be on my activity after surgery?

When will I be able to return to work?

When will I be able to return to my normal activities including exercise?

When will I be able to eat and drink after surgery?

Questions About Surgery Costs:

How much will the procedure cost?

Does the cost of the procedure include OR time, anesthesia and testing?

Is a payment plan available or a discount if I am self-paying for surgery?

Questions To Ask Your Insurance Company Before Surgery

Anesthesia and Surgery Image
Anesthesia & Surgery. Photo: © Andrew Olney/Getty Images

Before having a surgical procedure it is helpful to talk to your insurance company or companies to determine the level of your coverage and any expenses that you will personally be responsible for paying. In addition, if you have disability coverage through your employer or an independent insurance company, you may be eligible for benefits while you are having surgery and during your recovery.

Questions to Ask Your Insurance Companies Before Surgery:

How much will the procedure cost me after insurance pays its portion?

(Major procedures) What is the maximum on my policy and will this procedure meet that threshold?

What type of coverage do I have if I need rehabilitation or home health care after surgery?

Will any special equipment I need after surgery, such as oxygen, a hospital bed or assistive devices be covered?

Do I have disability insurance?

How much is my weekly/monthly disability benefit?

If my recovery takes longer than expected when will my disability coverage start?

How much of my prescription costs after surgery will I be expected to pay each month?

Questions To Ask at Work Before You Have Surgery

scalpel image
scalpel image. Photo: © Harrison Eastwood/Getty Images

If your surgery will require you to take time away from work, there are important questions that your human resources department may be able to help answer. These questions will help you determine your options for time away from work, your insurance coverage through your employer and your return to work.

Questions to Ask Your Employer Before Your Surgery:

How much sick time do I have available for my surgery and recovery?

Do I have disability coverage if my recovery takes longer than expected? When will my benefits end if I am unable to return to work?

Can I use my sick/vacation time to make up the difference between my normal pay and what I will receive as a disability payment?

Can I use vacation time as well as sick time for my surgery and recovery?

Will my job be secure if my recovery lasts longer than expected?

Will you be able to make accommodations for my special needs (wheelchair, crutches, cane, limited work hours) after surgery?

What is the balance in my prepaid healthcare account?

Surgery Questions For Hospital Staff and Social Workers

Three surgeons working in surgery/OR
Three Surgeons In Surgery. Image: © Janice Airey/Getty Images

If you are having your procedure done in a hospital, the social work staff and other key staff members may be of great assistance to you. Social workers can help you determine if you are eligible for government benefits or other programs to help pay for your surgery. They may also help you arrange for any sort of equipment or physical therapy/rehabilitation you may need once you are discharged.

Questions to Ask Hospital Staff & Social Workers Before Surgery:

Do I qualify for Medicare or Medicaid?

Does my service as a veteran entitle me to any healthcare benefits?

Do I qualify for any financial assistance programs provided by the hospital?

If I am self-paying can I pay the insurance rate?

If I am self-paying is there a discount plan available or an installment program?

If I require a stay at a rehabilitation facility after my procedure will you be able to assist with those arrangements?

Are there limitations on visitors or the time of visits?

If I require medical equipment, such as oxygen or assistive devices after surgery, will you be able to help with those arrangements?

Is there a fee for parking if I, or my family, park at the hospital? Is that fee waived for patients or is a discount available?

Questions To Ask Friends & Family Before Surgery

surgeon in surgery image, surgeon working in OR, in the operating room, surgeon image, surgery
Surgeon At Work. Image: © Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

If you are having surgery, you may need to rely on your friends and family for a bit more help than you normally would. This list will help you remember the different things that you may need help with, including rides, housework that requires more lifting than you are permitted and pet care.

Questions to Ask Your Friends and Family Before Surgery:

Will you be available to take me to the hospital for my surgery?

Will you be available to pick me up and take me home from the hospital?

Will you be available to watch my children while I am having surgery/hospitalized?

If I need help with childcare/lifting/personal care/light housework/walking my pets will you be available?

If I need assistance getting to doctor’s appointments/physical therapy will you be available?

While I am in the hospital recovering from surgery can you care for my pets?

Will you be visiting during my hospital stay?

Questions To Ask Your Plastic Surgeon

Cosmetic surgeon marking patients face for surgery
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When having plastic surgery it is extremely important to ask appropriate questions of the surgeon. In many cases, patients who have a poor outcome after the procedure find out later that the doctor had no training in plastic surgery.

To prevent poor outcomes, it is especially important to make sure the surgeon you choose has the appropriate credentials and experience to perform the procedure. It is also helpful if the surgeon performs the procedure frequently, as that has been shown to contribute to the final outcome.

Questions To Ask Before Plastic Surgery:

Why is this procedure the best one for me, rather than a similar one?

Are you board certified in plastic surgery?

How frequently do you perform this procedure?

Do you have any patients who are surgeons?

Do you have before & after photos of your work?

If you couldn’t perform my surgery, who would you recommend?

Are you involved in teaching/education of residents or credentialed plastic surgeons?

What type of anesthesia will be used?

How can I lower my risk of scarring? What can you do to lower my risk of scarring?

Will I be able to go home once I wake from surgery?

Will my surgery be performed in a surgery clinic or a hospital?

How long will the benefits of surgery last? Are the results permanent?

How long can I expect to be away from work/normal activity?

Will I have visible swelling or bruising that may prevent me from returning to work?

Can this procedure be repeated or reversed?

How much will the procedure cost in total, including anesthesia, lab tests and any other costs.

What are the most common complications of this surgery?

How can I expect my appearance to be improved by the procedure?

What is a realistic expectation regarding the outcome of the surgery?

What additional costs can I expect if I have to remain in the hospital overnight?

Is there a payment plan or financing available?


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  • Questions to Ask Before Surgery. University of Maryland Medical Center.