Questions to Ask Before Choosing Surgery

Patient knee with surgery scars

Having surgery can be an intimidating process. There are so many factors to consider: Is this procedure right for me? What do I need to do leading up to surgery? What do I need to do after surgery? What are realistic expectations? Often as patients, we enter into the initial appointment with our surgeons with wide eyes, absorbing only a fraction of what is said to us, and then walking out with only a fraction of the confidence we’d like to have.

The good news is that by simply asking a few questions, you can create greater clarity for yourself and your family and leave the initial visit with a level of confidence that will allow you to enter into your surgical experience with greater ease. Below you will find a (non-exhaustive) list of good questions that you can ask your surgeon to fill in the gaps and best prepare you for your procedure:

cartoon icon of surgeon

Prior to Meeting With Your Surgeon

-Know what your surgical goals are. Are you looking to return to normal daily life functions or do you have plans to return to or start into high-level fitness/athletics? Knowing this will help your surgeon determine the best option.

Determining if Surgery is the Best Option

-What, specifically, is the procedure being proposed?

                -Will it be done arthroscopically (using small incisions) or open (larger incision)?

                -Will a graft be used? If so, what type of graft and why?

-Is surgery the best option for me right now

                -What non-surgical avenues can be taken?

-What is the surgeon’s experience with this procedure?

                -How often do they perform?

                -What are their outcomes? Are these tracked and can you view them?

-What is the anticipated outcome of the procedure?

                -When can I return to ______?

-What are the specific risks with having this procedure?

**Remember that getting a second opinion is an option. Do not feel pressured to move forward with a surgery if you don’t feel confident in your decision.

Questions Regarding the Time Before Surgery

-What can I do to increase the odds of a successful outcome? *See bottom for a note on “Pre-hab”

-What, if any, supplies will I need to have for when I get home from surgery?

Questions Regarding the Time After Surgery

-What pain levels should I anticipate?

                -What medications will I be taking?

-What does the rehab process look like?

                -When will I be starting?

                -Should I do any “pre-hab” *see below for details on this

-Are there any precautions/restrictions I will need to adhere to after surgery?

-When will I be able to return to work? To driving? To _________?

*A quick note on “Pre-hab”, or physical therapy prior to surgery: Obviously biased, but I HIGHLY recommend asking your surgeon for a referral to physical therapy to start prior to surgery. This will afford you the opportunity to go over how to properly use any assistive devices you will need, any exercises that you will be doing immediately after surgery, and what the rehab process will look like. Additionally, she/he can go over exercises that you can do leading up to surgery to set you up for the best possible outcome.  

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