The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) (formerly known as the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research) developed the following list of sensible questions you should ask your doctor before you schedule any surgery. See their web site for more details and links to other resources:
- What operation are you recommending? - Have the surgeon explain the procedure and ask if there are different ways of doing the operation.
- Why do I need the operation? - What is the purpose of the surgery: is it to relieve or prevent pain, improve a body function, or diagnose a problem?
- Are there alternatives to surgery? Sometimes nonsurgical treatments work. Ask about the benefits and risks of the surgery and these other choices.
- What are the benefits of the operation and how long will the benefits last? - Ask is there is published information about the procedure outcomes.
- What are the risks of the operation? Weigh the benefits against possible complications and side effects.
- What if I don't have the operation? What will you gain or lose if you don't have the operation?
- Where can I get a second opinion? Many health insurance plans require second opinions before non-emergency operations - call your plan for their policy. Bring your records and any test results from the first doctor to the second so those tests are not unnecessarily repeated.
- What has been your experience in doing the operation? Ask how many of these procedures the surgeon has performed and what successes and complications has he or she had with this procedure.
- Where will the operation be done? Some operations have higher success rates if they are done in hospitals that perform them frequently. Ask about the success rate at this hospital. Find out whether the hospital is accredited and its performance report by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
- What kind of anesthesia will I need? Find out the qualifications of the anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist and ask him or her what the side effects and risks of having anesthesia are in your case.
- How long will it take to recover? Find out if you will need supplies or equipment you will need at home and get these in advance to make the recovery easier. Ask about when you may resume work and exercise.
- How much will the operation cost? Call your health plan to find out whether it will cover the surgery and what out-of-pocket expenses you will incur.
This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission.