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10 Things Your Surgeon Probably Won’t Tell You

Here are some questions to ask, tips that you should know and a homework assignment to complete before you check into the hospital.

1. the First Thing You Should Do Is Get a Second Opinion

Are you absolutely sure you really need surgery? Every surgery you’re considering deserves that you confirm the necessity to have surgery from more than one source. Emergency surgeries may be a different matter, but if you have time to weigh your options, do it. A second—or even a third—surgeon’s opinion will give you the peace of mind and help you decide what’s the best course of action.

2. Find the Most Experienced Surgeon out There

Performing surgery is like golf, practice makes perfect. The more relevant experience a surgeon has, the better the outcome for you. You need to ask: “How many of my kind of surgeries have you done?” You should be looking for someone for more than five years under their belt with at least 35 surgeries per year. Stay away from a surgeon whose main focus is patient care or a clinician who spends his day researching as opposed to one that has a proven surgery track record.

3. Check out If There Have Been Complaints Filed

It’s public record, and it’s easier than you think to find out if your surgeon has a negative past. Go online to the North Carolina medical licensing board ( or your county clerk’s office to see if there have been medical malpractice lawsuit cases filed against your surgeon—and the resolution of your surgeon’s cases if any. ProPublica also has their Surgeon Scorecard online for even more information nationwide.

4. Check out Your Hospital’s Record, Too

Try this Medicare tool ( or the Hospital Safety Scorecard and compare your hospital to others in your area based on their surgical records. What you find may surprise you – or comfort you.

5. Make Sure to Schedule Your Surgery During ‘Banker’s Hours’

Don’t even think about having surgery on a weekend or at night. The most skilled and experienced support staff like nurses, patient advocates, and social workers all prefer to work 9 to 5.

6. How Are Your Surgeon’s Communication Skills?

You should be entirely comfortable with your surgeon’s bedside manner that shows confidence and connects with you. Your surgeon might have a great smile, but if he or she can’t communicate clearly with you, keep looking.

7. Ask Questions…and Make Sure to Get Answers

  • What are my benefits and risks of this surgery?
  • Are the benefits short-term or long-term?
  • How long will the benefits last?
  • Are there alternatives to surgery?
  • What if we skip or postpone my surgery?
  • What’s the recovery period?
  • What are the downsides to surgery?

If the surgeon doesn’t openly welcome questions, look around for one who will. Make sure to put your questions in writing and follow up, if necessary.

8. Incision Sizes May Be Negotiable

Some surgeries offer options that are less invasive, have fewer risks, shorter hospital stays and offer shorter recovery times – all of which can lower your costs. Make sure to ask about different ways to get the same end result. Some minor surgeries, like laparoscopic surgery, may even work as well or better than major surgery.

9. Get an Advocate

Keeping a family member or a friend involved when you discuss surgery options with the surgeon can make a huge difference. Bring a ‘third party’ with you for pre-op consultations to help you objectively ask questions and keep a record of what’s said. If you don’t have a family member or friend, ask for a patient advocate from the hospital, your minister, a social worker or hire one from a private service. Don’t try to do this by yourself.

10. Forget Makeup and Nail Polish

Take a shower with antibacterial or medicated soap before surgery. Make sure to remove makeup and nail polish — even clear polish — because recovery room nurses inspect your nails for your oxygen levels in post-op.


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