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21 Questions You Need to Ask Your Surgeon Before You or Your Loved One Has Surgery

Millions of Americans have surgery every year (estimates range anywhere from 23 million to 60 million procedures per year!) and must put their health into the hands of their surgeon. Fortunately, most surgeries are elective, or at least not immediate, which means you have time to do your homework and choose a surgeon that you feel comfortable with.


Be sure to ask your surgeon to mark the location of your body that's going to be operated on -- before the procedure. This reduces the risk of having the surgery mistakenly performed on the wrong area of your body.

It's your body, after all, and you must take the time to learn about your surgeon and the procedure that's going to be done. You wouldn't simply buy a car or a house without first looking into it, would you? Nor should you go blindly into any health care procedure.

Moreover, studies have found that well-informed patients heal faster and report having a better surgical experience than those who are not, according to the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

So take your time "interviewing" your surgeon with the following top questions so you feel certain that the procedure and the surgeon are right for you.

  1. How will the surgery be performed? (Ask him or her to draw you a diagram, if you like.)

  2. Is there more than one way of performing the procedure?

  3. Are there alternatives to the surgical procedure?

  4. What are the benefits of the surgery?

  5. What are the risks of the surgery?

  6. If I opt NOT to have the procedure, what are the risks/benefits?

  7. What is the expected outcome of the surgery?

  8. How many of this (or similar) surgery do you perform each year? (A good indicator of experience and ability)

  9. What kind of anesthesia will be used? (And what are the risks/benefits of it?)

  10. Will I meet with an anesthesiologist before surgery?

  11. Will my heart rate and breathing be monitored during the surgery (and is anything else monitored)?

surgical anesthesia

Your surgery may require anesthesia. Do you know what kind it is?

  1. At which hospital will the surgery be performed?

  2. How often is this procedure performed at that hospital, and what is the success rate? (Studies show that patients do better in hospitals that have experience with the procedure.)

  3. How long will I be in the hospital?

  4. Is there a 24-hour recovery room in the hospital (or, where will I recover in the hospital)?

  5. What are the qualifications of the staff in the recovery room?

  6. What are my options for pain control after the surgery?

  7. How long will it take me to recover?

  8. What will the procedure cost, and is it covered by my insurance?

  9. What about a second opinion? (Getting a second opinion is fairly common before an elective surgical procedure is performed.)

  10. Will you please mark the location of the surgery on my body ahead of time? (This helps to ensure that the wrong site is not operated on, which does, fairly rarely, sometimes happen.)

We recommend you and relatives who can benefit from it, and print it out and save it for your own possible future reference.

Recommended Reading

27 Never Events: They're Not Supposed to Happen, but They Often Do

Items Left Inside People After Surgery: Just How Common is This Terrifying Ordeal?


Agency for Health Care Research and Quality

American Society of Anesthesiologists

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