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Healthy Life: Eight Questions to Ask Before Surgery

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BACKGROUND: Every year, more than 15 million Americans have surgery. It is important for patients to be informed about the surgery being recommended, particularly if it is elective surgery (an operation the patient chooses to have performed), rather than an emergency surgery (also called urgent surgery). All surgeries have risks and benefits which the patient should familiarize themselves with before deciding whether the procedure is appropriate for them. (SOURCE:;

TIPS FOR COMMUNICATING WITH THE PHYSICIAN: It is important for patients to communicate their feelings, questions, and concerns with their physician prior to having surgery. The following are suggestions that may help to improve patient/physician communication:

• If you do not understand your physician's responses, ask questions until you do.
• Take notes, or ask a family member or friend to accompany you and take notes for you. You can also bring a tape recorder, so you can review information later.
• Ask your physician to write down his or her instructions, if necessary.
• Ask your physician where you can find printed material about your condition. Many physicians have this information in their offices.

DETERMINING THE COSTS OF THE PROCEDURE: Before surgery, the topic of how much the procedure is going to cost, should come up. Fees may include, but are not limited to, the following:

• The surgeon's fee for surgery
• Hospital fees (if hospitalization is required)
• Separate billing for other services, such as the assisting surgeon, anesthesiologist, and other medical consultants.

OBTAINING A SECOND OPINION: Asking another physician or surgeon for a second opinion is very important. A second opinion can help the patient make an informed decision about the best treatment for their condition and can help them weigh the risks and benefits against possible alternatives to the surgery. Several health plans now require and will pay for patients to obtain a second opinion on certain nonemergency procedures. Medicare may also pay for patients to obtain a second opinion. (SOURCE:

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