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Asking a few questions before undergoing surgery can help you make important decisions.

Every year more than 15 million Americans have surgery.   Surprisingly, most surgeries are considered elective and are not emergencies.   This means that usually you have time to ask for more information and make informed decisions on your care and treatment prior to any procedure.

Here are some important questions to ask:

What is the operation (procedure) that is recommended?

Ask your surgeon for a simplified explanation of the type of operation, technique used, and reasons it should be performed. (Pictures and drawings can tell patients and family a great deal.) Why was this specific procedure chosen over possible alternatives?

What is the surgeon's experience with this procedure?

Ask the surgeon about his/her experience with this procedure, its outcome, and the hospital or setting in which the operation will be performed. Is the nursing staff accustomed to caring for patients who have had this procedure?

What is the reason that this procedure is necessary at this time?

Is the procedure being done to relieve pain, diagnose a condition, correct deformity, for cosmetic reasons, or what exact purposes? Must the procedure be performed immediately?

What are the options if this procedure is not done?

What are the nonsurgical or medical treatments available to help the condition? What will/might happen if the operation is not done? If the operation is not done at this time, can it be done later? What are the consequences if the procedure is postponed or delayed?

What kind of anesthesia is required for the procedure?

Is a general anesthesia necessary? Can the procedure be performed under local or regional anesthesia? Are sedatives or other medications required prior to the procedure? What are the risks of the type of anesthesia to be used?

What about a second opinion?

Obtaining a second opinion is very reasonable for an elective (voluntary, or non-emergency) surgical procedure. This will not be a problem with the first surgeon, who will recognize this as commonplace. Second opinions can reassure anxious patients (and family members) and make the whole process easier for all involved.

These are only a few of the questions that you should have answered in order to thoroughly do your "homework".   Surgery is serious business.   Use the Internet to research your options and seek out help groups or other individuals to network with and find out about their experiences.

Check out these articles for more information on questions to ask about surgery.