When considering surgery, it is important to understand as much as possible about what is going to be done, why it is going to be done and what you can expect as a result. This article should help you through the process when surgery is offered as an option by your doctor.
Do a little research. You will be amazed at what you can learn by Googling the surgical procedure in question. YouTube is also an excellent way to get a basic idea as to how some of these procedures are performed. The more information you have before making a decision, the better.
Be sure to write questions down before seeing the doctor. It is easy to forget what you would like to ask, especially in the middle of a complex discussion and under the stress of the circumstances. You should always speak with the doctor in the presence of someone that you trust. Not only can that person help you to get and understand information, but he or she might remember things differently than you do. It is always a good idea to have a second set of eyes and ears available.
Ask about the level of complexity of the proposed surgery and the doctor's experience with it. Will the doctor be doing the procedure himself or will another, more junior, doctor be involved? It is of the utmost importance that you ask about other surgical or nonsurgical options for your condition. Sometimes surgery, if necessary, can also be postponed for a number of years, especially if your symptoms can be tolerated or managed in some other way.
Make sure to communicate with the doctor the problems that you hope the surgery will correct. The last thing that you want to do is go through a surgery thinking it will correct a certain problem and finding out later on that it was not intended to do so. Be sure to be on the same page with your doctor as to the expected goal of the surgery.
For example, you may want to consider a knee replacement because you have trouble squatting, kneeling or going up and down steps. As many knee replacement surgeries are not really designed to correct those kinds of problems, it is extremely important that the doctor understands what your expectations are so that he can advise you as to whether the surgery will meet them. A firm understanding of the expected benefits and limitations of any surgery is crucial to your decision to go ahead with it.
Know what the expected recovery will be like. How long will you be incapacitated? Where and what type of rehab is necessary? Rehabilitation can be as important as the surgery itself. You must be sure that you will commit to the time and effort that this will take. If not, you may want to choose another option.
Surgeries generally carry risk of complications both from the surgery itself and from postoperative issues, such as infection. Ask the doctor about any such complications and how often they occur. Try to find out what can be done if a complication develops.
Finally, never be afraid to take your time to consider your options, unless you are in an emergency situation. Ask for a second opinion if you would like. Most doctors welcome second opinions, especially if the surgery is unusual or in any way complicated.