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Family Health and Wellness Guide

Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Surgery

Before checking in to the hospital, be sure to discuss these five topics with your physician.

By Dimity McDowell
Clipboard and paperAlison Gootee

How is the procedure I'll be having performed?
Inquire about options: For example, gall-bladder surgery done via laparoscopy―in which the incisions are minimal and recovery is quicker―is usually preferable to conventional abdominal surgery.

 

What are the benefits of this surgery? Common complications?
Find out if this procedure is a permanent or temporary fix, and ask what kind of side effects you might face. Pain is to be expected, but ask how long it is likely to last and how the doctor plans to help you manage it. Will you be given an IV you can control yourself? Pills? Injections?

 

What type of anesthesia will I need?
Depending on your operation, you'll be given anesthesia that is local (one specific area), regional (a larger portion of your body), or general (medications are used to change your level of consciousness so you don't feel pain). In addition, ask if you'll be given drugs for nausea caused by the anesthesia.

 

Might I need blood?
If so, ask about autotransfusion―donating your own blood prior to the procedure. You need to donate two weeks before surgery so your body has time to recover.

 

What should I do to prepare for surgery?
Your doctor may have you stop taking certain prescription medications, herbal supplements, or over-the-counter drugs a week or two in advance. If you're a smoker, you'll probably be advised to quit. "Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, which leads to poor scar formation and increased chances of avascular necrosis, or decreased blood flow to the bones," says Susan Olsen-Nakada, chief nurse and operation officer at Sharp Coronado Hospital, in San Diego. How long will it be before I can get out of bed? Also ask how long you should expect to be in the hospital. This information will help you figure out when you will be ready to return to your normal routine.

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