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18 Top Questions to Ask Your Doctor or Surgeon Before Surgery

18 Top Questions to Ask Your Doctor or Surgeon Before Surgery


MSN published a very informative article regarding unnecessary surgeries in America recently. It highlighted statistical findings and data research compiled by the Choosing Wisely Campaign (an organization led by the American Board of Internal Medicine and Consumer Reports, outlining disturbing information pertaining to the eight most common surgical procedures. The American Medical Association prides itself on upholding their doctors to the sacred Hippocratic oath, "Do no harm," but the business of our current modern and very much "struggling" healthcare system is under the hot radar, and for medicine being all about the calculated numbers and statistical probabilities, these sad numbers beg the question, "What's failing the people, and why so much error?"

Here are a few of the statistical findings compiled by the Choosing Wisely Campaign:

✤ "12% of all angioplasty procedures, which often include the insertion of stents, weren't medically necessary.
✤ In 22.5% of cases in which a cardiac pacemaker/implantable cardioverter-defibrillator was installed, no evidence supported that decision.
✤ In 17% of cases in which patients were told they needed back surgery/spinal fusion, no neurological or radiographic findings indicated such an operation was necessary.
✤ Among patients told they needed total knee replacement surgery, 38% who received information about joint replacements and alternative treatments decided against the procedure.
✤ Similarly, 26% of patients who received additional information about hip replacements decided against them.
✤ In 43% of colonoscopies, no clinical indication showed a need for the procedure.
✤ A study from earlier this year, looking at data from nearly 600 hospitals nationwide, found the rate of cesarean section deliveries varied tenfold across those hospitals -- from just more than 7% of all births to nearly 70%.
✤ 70% of hysterectomies were inappropriately recommended, "often because doctors didn't attempt treatment with non-surgical procedures.”

If you are at the doctor's office and receive a diagnosis or suggestion by your healthcare professional that deems surgery is the route to getting better and the only (or best) answer, the following is a list of questions you should ask before signing your name on the dotted line and putting on the OR gown. Being as thorough as possible will help you minimize your chances of opting for  an unnecessary surgery.

First, prepare yourself and take notes.

Go with a friend or family member to the open dialogue. Research the doctor or surgeon and understand his stance on medicine. Have the doctor show you illustrations and step by step surgery methods.

Always get a second and third opinion.

1.  Ask: What is the diagnosis and what operation is being suggested?
2. Ask: Where is the root cause of my discomfort/pain coming from? Will the surgery treat the root cause?
3. Ask: What is the success rate of the operation and how many of these operations has the surgeon completed successfully.
4. Side effects/ complications/ and potential risks of the surgery as they relate to you (if you are overweight, smoker, a senior, etc.)
5. What would you do if this was your family member (Doctor)? How would you treat/proceed with recommending this to your family?
6. How long will the benefits of the surgery last?
7. Who will be performing the surgery? Who will be assisting?
8. Are there any alternatives to the procedure? (Natural options? Medications? Lifestyle changes? Non-surgical procedures?)
9. What will happen if elective surgery is not chosen? What will happen?
10. Where will the surgery be performed? In the hospital, outpatient rehabilitation center?
11. What are the risks of having the surgery. What type of pain/discomfort is expected?
12. What type of anesthesia will be offered? Risks?
13. What does recovery look like? How long before normal routine is resumed?
14. What long term consequences of the proposed procedure are there?
15. What if during the surgery you see something that you did not expect?
16. Do I need to donate my own blood prior to surgery?
17. What are the costs involved. Know all possible (and hidden) costs by hospital and insurance.
18. Ask any additional concerns, even if they are non-medical. Know or learn about your resources.


Sources: Spine-health.com, Msn.com, johnhopkins.org, USA today.

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