One of the most frightening moments in a person’s life is being told by a physician that surgery is needed to correct a problem. This problem can be caused by an injury or may be part of the abnormal progression of a chronic disease. Regardless of the cause you are now overcome by a certain sense of helplessness and fear because you do not fully understand what is going on. To make matters worse the medical team taking care of you may not be doing the best job of explaining the situation in terms that you understand. You are torn with blindly following your physician’s advice or seeking a second opinion.


Items to discuss

Regardless of the reason for the surgery, a dialogue should occur early on that details four main concerns:

  1. Risks

    What the likelihood is that you could be harmed by the proposed procedure

  2. Benefits

    How the proposed procedure will positively impact your medical problem

  3. Possible complications

    What are the potential dangerous consequences that could result from having the proposed procedure

  4. Alternatives

    Are there other treatment options besides the proposed procedure and are they equally, less, or more beneficial.

This mandatory dialogue still may prove inefficient in convincing you to have a surgical procedure and may not answer all of your questions.

Other questions to ask

There are other important questions that you should ask to further determine whether or not you need operation and they include:

  • Why exactly do you need this surgery?

  • What are the indications for this procedure?

  • What will happen if I choose not to have this surgical operation?

  • Is a second opinion needed?

  • Can I have a copy of the Radiology, or other reports, that you are using to make your decision?

  • Is this a procedure that you perform often?

Often physicians will carefully answer these questions and negate you needing to ask them, but be careful to ensure that all of these topics are covered.

Preparation for surgery

You must prepare for surgery once you are sure that the procedure is required to correct your medical condition. A checklist will prove very helpful in this phase of your planning because you want the best possible outcome with the least risk for complication such as infection. Items to include on your checklist include:

  • Discuss pending surgery with family and loved ones

  • Ensure your advanced directive and will are up to date and bring them with you

  • Prepare yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually

Most often when your doctor tells you that operation is needed, he or she is giving you the best recommendation available based on the information he or she has. You want to ensure that you understand the indications for the proposed surgical operation and review Radiology reports that describe abnormalities that require correction and if necessary have your physician point out these findings on actual x-rays. Once you are certain that this procedure is needed there are 2 important steps that you can take to prepare yourself – 1) Exercising, if you are not already, and 2) Quitting smoking. This will increase the likelihood that your surgery is successful and free of complications.