By Hesham Atwa, MD
When your physician tells you that you need to have a scheduled surgical procedure, whether it’s an ambulatory procedure or will require a hospital stay, there are a few key questions every patient should ask and your surgeon will be more than willing to answer.
1. Do I really need this operation?
Surgery can be life-changing and life-saving, but it isn’t always the answer. Medication and physical therapy can be very effective for many conditions and should be pursued whenever possible. As a patient, feel free to ask your surgeon as many questions as you have until you are comfortable enough to proceed. You can ask for a second opinion if you are not satisfied with the answers from your surgeon.
2. How can I contact you if I have more questions?
Many physician offices have surgical liaisons, staff members who serve as the contact person for patients and their families. Other surgeons like to be contacted directly. Before your procedure, ask your doctor the best way to contact him or her–phone, text, email—and how soon you should expect a response.
3. Will I see you after the surgery? Depending on the particular procedure, some patients need to follow-up with their surgeons for months, others can be seen by their primary care practitioner. Be clear before the day of surgery when your follow-up appointments are and when possible, schedule them before the surgery.
4. What can I do to make my surgery successful?
When surgery is elective and scheduled some time in advance, there may be a number of things you can do to assist with the recovery process. For example, stopping or dramatically decreasing smoking will increase your oxygen intake, which in turn will aid in healing. Also, adaptations to the household may be advisable, such as setting up a bed on the first floor to avoid stairs. Talk to your physician about what you can do to speed your recovery.
5. Is it okay to take my vitamins before the surgery?
Your surgeon will ask you what medications you regularly take and your answer should not be limited to prescriptions only. Disclose any medicine, herbal or vitamin supplements, whether prescription or over-the-counter, to your physician at the earliest possible time. At Mather Hospital, patients are advised to discontinue any vitamins, herbal supplements or over the counter medications at least 7 days prior to surgery. The more your surgeon knows, the better he or she can determine the impact, if any, on your surgery.
About the Author: Dr. Hesham Atwa is a general surgeon with a practice in East Setauket, NY and Director of Surgery at Mather Hospital.