“You’re going to need surgery.”
Hearing those words can be a frightening experience for many patients. Whether it’s your first time in the operating room or the latest in a series of procedures, it can be difficult to decide whether or not you should resort to surgery to address your medical condition. Fortunately, your doctor is in a position to address whatever concerns you may have and help you to make an informed choice about how to proceed with treatment.
10 Questions to Answer Before Considering Surgery
1: Is This Procedure Necessary?
Perhaps the most important question every patient should ask, simply exploring why a doctor recommends surgery is a good place to begin the conversation. You should feel confident that the procedure is medically necessary and will deliver positive health benefits before making the decision to undergo surgery. The best resource for this question is your doctor, but you may want to seek a second opinion if they’re not able to answer all of your questions. Try to avoid seeking information on the internet; even reputable online sources are not familiar with your medical history or situation.
2: What Are Your Alternatives to Surgery?
Even if you determine that some form of action is necessary to address your medical condition, there is a chance that surgery may not be your only option. In many cases, medications, physical therapy, or alternative treatments could improve your situation. Even if alternatives are available, however, you should be sure that you understand the trade-offs between your options. Opting for physical therapy might seem less daunting than surgery at first, but it could take much longer to see health improvements and leave you open to further complications down the road.
3: How Effective Will the Surgery Be?
Another seemingly obvious question, you should have realistic expectations of the health benefits you will gain by opting for surgery. In the case of orthopedic surgery, a procedure may be able to ease pain and restore mobility, but it probably won’t turn back the clock and allow you to do everything you could do when you were a teenager. Having a realistic view of surgical outcomes will help you make a clear-minded decision about surgery.
4: How Much Will the Surgery Cost?
Depending on the type of procedure you need, surgery can be quite an expense. The average cost of a hip or knee replacement, for example, is around $30,000. If your insurance policy doesn’t cover the procedure (to say nothing of physical therapy and recovery that may be required afterward), cost could be a major factor in determining if or when you elect to have surgery.
5: How Much Will NOT Having Surgery Cost?
On the other hand, you should always consider how much it will cost to NOT have the surgery. In the case of hip fractures, a recent study found that the total lifetime savings of such procedures amounted to $160,000 over the patient’s lifetime. Much of the cost savings came from health complications and nursing facility expenses resulting from not having the surgery when it could have had the most beneficial impact.
6: Will You Require Anesthesia?
Pain management is a critical part of many surgical procedures. Some surgeries require specific types of anesthesia, but in other cases you may have some options to choose from. Ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of various forms of pain management so you’ll know what to expect.
7: What Closing Method Does the Surgeon Use?
For decades, modern surgeons continued to use wound closure modalities that are nearly as old as the practice of medicine itself. Many surgeons still use outdated, invasive closure methods like sutures and staples out of habit and familiarity. Today, however, there are alternatives. Non-invasive wound closure devices like BandGrip, which uses patented micro-anchors to pull the wound edges closed so that natural healing can take place, are revolutionizing surgical closure. With BandGrip, surgeons can close faster and safer, completely eliminating the risk of needlestick injuries and reducing the likelihood of infection. Be sure to discuss the available options with your doctor and surgeon.
8: Do You Need to Manage Pain After Surgery?
Managing pain following surgery is a challenge that many patients are not prepared to face. While doctors once prescribed powerful opioids, frequent misuse caused about 10% of patients to become dependent upon them. Today, doctors are much more cautious about prescribing these drugs and might even prefer that patients use alternative pain management strategies such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) or multimodal regimens to deal with post-operative pain. Asking your doctor about pain management prior to surgery is vital because you may not be in a position to discuss your options following the procedure.
9: How Long Will Your Recovery Take?
Depending upon the type of surgery you need, you could be back to your normal routine within a few days or it may take several weeks before you can resume regular activity. By asking your doctor about recovery, you will have a better idea of what rehabilitation or therapy might be necessary so you can plan accordingly. Your recovery time can depend on many factors, including the type of wound closure method your surgeon uses. A non-invasive solution like BandGrip will support better ambulation than sutures or staples, allowing you to get back on your feet faster to begin your recovery.
10: What Kind of Scarring Can You Expect?
One of the biggest concerns patients have following surgery is the extent of scarring at the incision site. Pain and discomfort may fade quickly, but an unsightly scar can leave an enduring reminder of a procedure for the rest of your life. While there are a number of steps you can take to minimize scarring, the biggest factors are the type of incision made and how the surgeon closed afterward. While you can’t do much about the former, using a non-invasive closure method like BandGrip can greatly reduce the extent of scarring and help your wound to heal faster.
Deciding whether or not to have surgery can be a stressful experience, but asking the right questions can help make the process much easier. Armed with critical knowledge about your procedure, you can make your decision with confidence and understand what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.