11 Questions Your Surgeon Isn’t  Answering

A friend of a friend had some minor surgery a few weeks ago, and as she was organizing herself to be discharged after an overnight stay in the hospital, the doctor casually remarked, as she’s handing her the discharge letter, “Oh, by the way, you need to be on complete bed rest for the next two weeks.”  Say what?!  Needless to say, this friend was a bit surprised.  “Um, how come you never mentioned that?”  She stammered. “Well,” came the obvious reply, “you didn’t ask.”

In my years as a health advocate, I’ve heard many stories of surprise medical endings of treatments and procedures of which the patient was completely clueless.  Fingernails removed, radiation treatments assigned, medication changed or added, much to the individual’s astonishment. Consistently, the doctor’s response to “why didn’t you tell me” was “you didn’t ask”.  That always reminds me of the line from the Disney Pocahontas song, “…. you’ll learn things you never knew you never knew”, meaning if I don’t know in general about the procedure, how will I even know the follow-up questions to ask?

For this reason, I’ve put together a list of 11 questions that are essential to ask the doctor when s/he refers you to a procedure, because the answers will surprise you!

  1. What is the estimated length of the procedure?
  2. Does it need to be conducted in a clinic or hospital?
  3. Will I need to take medication afterward or change my medication?
  4. Are there any dietary or lifestyle restrictions before or after the procedure?
  5. Do most people choose to take pain medication after this procedure? Over-the-counter or prescription?
  6. What is the average healing time? Will I need to come in to have bandage changed?
  7. What and when is the follow-up?
  8. Is everything covered by insurance (kupat cholim/supplementary)?
  9. Are there any known side effects of the procedure or medication?
  10. Will I be able to drive? Resume daily activities? Exercise?
  11. Will I need someone to be with me?

Surgeons sometimes have a reputation for being brusque and a bit prickly.  Don’t be deterred, however, from asking your questions in the office and making sure that you have satisfactory responses BEFORE you have the procedure.

Have an anecdote you’d like to share about this issue or some additional advice?  Please feel free to comment or post a question!

2 thoughts on “11 Questions Your Surgeon Isn’t  Answering”

  1. I have been pleased with the service received from Clalit. When I have a test or procedure, (eg. colonoscopy) they explain IN WRITING what I must do before, during and after the procedure, including the fact that I need someone to drive me home!

  2. MashaFaygel Tokayer

    My experience has been that the dr. and the hospital provide details information prior to a procedure or even prior to my decision to do the procedure or not. the tiny little fine print is that the description of possible side effects are grossly lacking in details. A simple look around on the internet have been enough for me to figure out in some cases, that this is not the way i choose to go. Only after asking the specific questions in such a way – ‘is it true that….?’ did I get the full and honest picture about a procedure. I believe doctors may leave out these ‘little’ details so as not to frighten the patients and in order to make sure the patients go the recommended course. I am all for informed consent – that is FULL INFORMED.

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