10 Things Doctors Won’t Tell You Before Surgery

The lead-up to a surgical procedure is usually dominated by an exchange of information between you and your surgeon. There can be so many details and so much to keep up with that you may not even realize how many potentially important ones are either being lost in the shuffle or actively swept under the rug. Before you go under the knife, these are 10 of the things that you might want to make a point of asking your surgeon about.

  1. Their Board Certification Status – It usually doesn’t occur to a patient to ask if the person who will be performing their surgery is Board Certified, but the truth is that many are not. A surgeon probably won’t disclose that information without first being asked, either.
  2. Their Complication Rate – A surgeon who won’t disclose a complication rate or claims not to have one is probably so inexperienced that he hasn’t had time to encounter complications or is actively hiding something from you. According the Chief of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery at Florida Hospital Celebration Health, “no one is immune to complications.”
  3. That There’s A More Conservative, Non-Surgical Method Of Managing Your Condition – In some cases, surgery may actually be the only viable method of treating what’s ailing you. Most of the time, though, there is a more conservative course of treatment that doesn’t include a surgical procedure. Your surgeon, however, is paid roughly 10 times more to perform the surgical procedure than to help you manage it in another, less intrusive way.
  4. That A Resident Might Perform The Procedure – Before surgeons become surgeons, they’re residents. Because they have to learn the intricacies of operating through hands-on experience, part or all of your procedure may be handled by a resident with the supervision of an attending physician. If you’re having surgery at a teaching hospital, it’s a good idea to ask your surgeon if he will be overseeing the procedure in its entirety. Before you panic, however, you should also keep in mind that some medical professionals recommend teaching hospitals as the best places to receive cutting-edge, up-to-the-minute care.
  5. That You Can Access Your Operative Report – You may be out cold during the procedure, but there is a way to find out what happened in the operating room if you suspect that something went wrong. The operative notes dictated by the surgeon are a record of the procedure, and you can ask to see the report.
  6. That Your Weight Can Make Their Job More Difficult – Weight is a sensitive subject for many people, especially those who are packing on more than a few extra pounds. Your surgeon knows this, but he may not let on just how much more difficult caring for an obese patient is. Obese patients are more likely to contract post-operative infections, present a challenge in the placement of central venous catheters and can even be difficult to start an IV in because the veins aren’t always visible.
  7. How Much Your Non-Compliance Stresses Them Out – Performing surgical procedures is a career fraught with sources of stress and anxiety, but one of the most difficult ones for many surgeons to manage is the knowledge that her patients may or may not bother to comply with post-operative instructions.
  8. They May Be Making More From Your Procedure Than You Realize – You know that your surgeon will be walking away from the table with a pretty penny in his pocket from your insurance company, but you may not realize that he’s making even more from medical device manufacturers through quasi-legal kickbacks.
  9. That They’re Exhausted – Rare is the surgeon who will volunteer the information that he’s exhausted and that he may not be quite alert enough to be in top form in the operating room. A surgeon who was on call the night before almost certainly won’t tell you that he didn’t get enough sleep, even if that is the case.
  10. Your Procedure May Not Be As Urgent As You Think – Because of the off chance that you could have an unexpectedly sudden reaction as a result of a condition or injury could lead to intense questioning or even allegations of malpractice, most surgeons want to get your procedure completed as soon as possible. While it’s not a good idea to drag your feet after arming yourself with this knowledge, you can use it to ease any anxiety you may feel about the urgency of your condition.

While knowing these things can make surgery seem like an even scarier business, it’s important to understand that taking serious medical decisions into your own hands and refusing the advice of professionals is highly unadvised. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a second or even third opinion, looking for the best surgeon in your area and being actively involved with the process. It is, however, a very bad idea to forgo treatment altogether out of concerns about what your surgeon may not be telling you.