How Being an Informed Sur…

If you are expecting to have surgery in the coming weeks or months, there are things you can do to increase the likelihood of your surgery's success. One of those to become an informed surgical patient. While, of course, it's the responsibility of your medical team and facility to make sure your surgery goes as well and safely as possible, arming yourself with knowledge and preparing for your surgery maximizes your chances of a good outcome and makes you feel more comfortable with the prospect of going under the knife.

What Questions Should You Ask Before Surgery?

The questions you will want to ask your doctor and care providers before surgery fall into three general buckets: questions about the surgery itself, questions about the doctor's qualifications, and questions that relate to your particular health issues. The list of questions below isn't exhaustive, of course; depending on your situation, you may think of other questions to ask.

Questions About Your Surgery

  • What is the operation that's being recommended?
  • Why is it being recommended?
  • Are there other available treatments? If so, why is this surgery preferable?
  • What are the benefits of this surgery?
  • What are the risks and complications of this surgery?
  • What is the recovery time?
  • What happens if I don't have the operation?
  • Will I need further treatment beyond this operation?
  • Where will the surgery be performed (in a hospital or an ambulatory surgery center)?
  • What type of anesthesia will be used (local, nerve block, general)?

Questions About Your Doctor

  • Who will actually be performing my surgery?
  • What qualifications do you have to perform this surgery?
  • Are you board-certified to perform this surgery?
  • How many of this type of surgery have you performed?
  • Have you ever had a bad outcome from this surgery? What happened?
  • Do you mind if I get a secont opinion? (Unless your surgery is urgent, most doctors don't mind if you get a second opinion. Many even encourage it.)

Questions About Your Own Health

  • What will you do to prevent infections?
  • Will I have to be on antibiotics before or after surgery? What kind? For how long? Are there any risks associated with the antibiotic?
  • If hair removal is necessary before surgery, what will you use? (Razors are more likely than clippers to cause nicks in the skin that can become infected.)
  • Should I quit smoking? (Patients who smoke are at higher risk of infection.)
  • What will you do to prevent blood clotting?
  • If you have diabetes, sleep apnea, allergies, or other conditions, ask how these will affect your surgery and recovery.
  • Are there any measures I can take to improve the outcome of my surgery?

It can be uncomfortable to ask all of these questions. Doctors, especially surgeons, are busy people. Many patients feel bad taking their time to ask a laundry list of questions. But you have a right to have your questions answered; after all, it's your health on the line. If you don't understand an answer, you should be able to ask again until you do understand. In fact, your right to thoroughly understand your medical treatment before you agree to it is so important that a doctor who does not obtain informed consent from a patient may have committed medical malpractice.

Many people feel vulnerable enough when they need surgery. It may be helpful to have a friend or family members ask your questions if you don't feel comfortable doing so. And you or they should record or write down the answers. It can be easy to forget information when you're under stress—and needing surgery is always stressful.

If Your Surgery Did Not Go as Planned

If you have had surgery, and did not get the answers you needed beforehand, or if you suspect that the bad outcome you got was due to a surgeon's negligence, you should talk to an experienced Oregon medical malpractice attorney. It is possible that your poor outcome was unavoidable, but if there was something the doctor, medical staff, or surgical facility could have done to prevent it, you may be entitled to recover damages from them.

Medical malpractice cases are difficult, and an ethical attorney will not encourage you to pursue a case you're unlikely to win. But if you do deserve compensation and wait too long to act, the statute of limitations may prevent your recovery, no matter how valid your case would have been. Contact an attorney for a complimentary consultation to discuss your options before it's too late.

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