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Surgery 101

Summary

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If you are an informed consumer, you can help maximize the chance for success of a surgery, minimize the risks, and possibly save money. As you will see from this article, being informed includes a variety of subjects. Reading them all, particularly at one go, can be overwhelming. Instead, we suggest starting by scanning our information for an overview but only reading the area(s) of immediate concern. You, a family member or friend, can return as often as needed.

Before Agreeing To Surgery

Gather as much information as you can. For instance:

It is advisable to get a second, independent opinion from another doctor who is not in your doctor's same practice. Second opinions are so important that most health insurance covers them. To learn about second opinions, including how to get one, including how to find a doctor qualified to give a second opinion, click here.

NOTE: Do not let fear keep you from having surgery. If fear is interfering with your decision, or becomes difficult after you agree to surgery, see: How To Cope With Fear Of A Treatment 

Once You Agree To Surgery 

Consider taking the following steps to help assure a positive outcome:

  • Choose the surgeon and the facility in which the surgery will occur with care. To learn how, click here. 
  • If you have a choice about when to have surgery, common wisdom suggests the following:
    • Do not have surgery on a Friday or just before a holiday. Hospitals tend to have less staff on a weekend and during a holiday to tend to your needs and in the event of an emergency.
    • Avoid surgery in July. It is when the new medical school graduates start working at hospitals. 
  • Follow time tested tips to help assure a successful result. For example:
    • Do what you can to build yourself up physically and mentally before the operation. 
    • If you smoke, stop as soon as you can (at least 3 days before the operation). 
    • Give your surgeon a list of all the medications you are taking. Include those you recently discontinued. Also include over the counter medications, supplements and herbs.
    • For additional tips, click here
  • If you will not have to stay in a hospital overnight for the operation, surgery will be on what is known as an "outpatient basis."  Ideally outpatient surgery would take place in a hospital setting. If there is a problem, the hospital staff and facilities are immediately available. If the surgery is not in a hospital setting, find out what procedures are in place in the event of an emergency. To learn about outpatient procedures, including how to protect yourself in the event of a problem, click here
  • If the surgery will be in a hospital, it is worth taking a few moments to learn the following. If you do not want to take the time, consider asking a family member or friend to check for you. Knowledge can help prevent infection, medical errors and save you money. 

With respect to after the surgery, it is worthwhile to learn about:

  • The questions to consider asking after surgery
  • What to do after discharge from the hospital.  
  • Find out what recovery will be like, how long you can expect recovery to take, and what you can and cannot do during that period of time. If changes will be needed in your home, make them before the surgery.  For additional questions to ask after surgery, click here.
  • Expect anxiety and possibly even depression or an anxiety attack before the surgery. Don't be surprised if there is a period of depression after the surgery. If the emotions interfere with your life, tell your doctor. He or she may prescribe medications. The articles in "To Learn More" describe non-drug methods to help in these situations.

Once you leave a hospital, (are "discharged") consider reviewing the bill part of your recovery. It can save you a lot of money. While it may not seem evident, it is also possible to negotiate the amount of a hospital bill. Both of these subjects are also covered in the articles in " To Learn More."

NOTE: If you don't have a Will, or Advance Directives such as a Living Will, a Health Care Proxy or a DNR, now is a good time to consider executing them "just in case." Writing the documents does not mean that you will need them. On the other hand, if something does happen, you may be submitted to long term procedures and expense that neither you or  your family want.  If you already have A Will and/or Advance Directives, check to make sure they still express your wishes. See the articles in "To Learn More."


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