Going under the knife: 10 things to know about your surgeon

Any surgery can pose a risk. Knowing which questions to ask about your surgeon can decrease those risks. This article contains a list of 10 important questions you should ask that have the potential to make your surgery and recovery process easier.

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  • Knowing the right questions to ask and having the courage to ask them may prevent an uncomfortable stay and possibly more serious complications.

  • Find out whether he is licensed to practice

  • in the state in which you live. Of course, you will want to assume that your physician is licensed to practice, but cases of medical fraud happen every year in the United States. The rates of fraudulent activities are especially high among cosmetic and plastic surgeons. Checking to make sure that your surgeon is current with the regulations in your state is important.

  • Check the educational background

  • Where did she go to medical school? Where did she do her internship and residency? Is he still active in research and published in medical journals? Learning this information will give you a more comprehensive view of your surgeon.

  • Should the procedure be done by a general surgeon or a specialist?

  • Many people are unaware that they can, and in some cases should, ask for a specialist. General surgeons may be perfectly capable of performing your procedure but using a specialist may change the outcome of the surgery and the recovery time. For example, if you need a tumor removed that procedure could easily be performed by a general surgeon but having an oncological surgeon perform the procedure may prevent additional surgeries or treatment because of his extensive knowledge regarding your illness. Keep in mind that specialists also charge more and your insurance may cover much less of the cost for their services. Speak up and ask those questions in your initial consultations.

  • What is his mortality rate for this procedure?

  • The best way to get that information is to ask your doctor during a consultation. Although it may seem like an uncomfortable question to ask, it is a vital one. Surgeons have a broad understanding that mortality rates are a fact of life in the medical profession, and he should be willing to discuss it with you in a professional manner.

  • How many times has she performed the procedure?

  • Every patient and surgery is slightly different, but having a surgeon who has done a specific surgery a number of times will give her the experience to handle unforeseen complications and speed up recovery time.

  • How many malpractice suits have involved your surgeon?

  • The County Clerks Office will have information on the number of criminal malpractice suits filed against your surgeon. Keep in mind that doctors in certain specialties will likely have a higher number of suits filed against them due to the nature of their specialty. Typically, you will see higher numbers among obstetricians and neurosurgeons because the amount of high-risk procedures they perform is far higher than other specialists. Also, keep in mind that a malpractice suit does not necessarily mean your surgeon was at fault. A patient can open a suit for any reason; they consider the surgery unsuccessful or because of complications that were beyond the control of the surgeon. However, if your surgeon has a long history of malpractice suits or a series of them in quick succession, that could indicate a problem. It may be an uncomfortable conversation but do not shy away from directly asking your surgeon about any incidents you find in his record that make you uneasy. Remember that you are paying for his service, and you have the right to this information.

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  • How is her general bedside manner?

  • A consistent theme that comes up when talking to people who have had surgery is whether or not they were able to communicate with their surgeons. Having an incredibly talented surgeon that is abrupt and dismissive may put you so ill at ease that, ultimately, his talent does not matter. If you find yourself clashing with your surgeon or are hesitant to ask questions, you might want to consider getting a second opinion, or having a consultation with another doctor.

  • Do your medical philosophies line up?

  • It is essential to remember that after your surgery is over your doctor has 100 percent control of the oversight of your recovery. The medical personnel that is responsible for your follow-up care follow the doctor's orders. Different doctors have different views on the administration of post-operative medication, pain management and alternative treatments. Before you go into surgery, discuss with your doctor your threshold for pain, any alternative treatments you are considering in addition to your surgery, and other concerns or requests you have no matter how frivolous they may seem. Get an idea of how aggressive your surgeon might be in your recovery with regards to physical therapy, as well.

  • How do you contact your surgeon?

  • After your hospital stay how do you get in touch with your doctor in case of an emergency related to your recovery, or to obtain more medication on a weekend or during the night? Does your doctor provide a personal number for contact? If not, who are you supposed to contact?

  • Does your medical insurance cover your surgeon?

  • Some plans will cover the hospital in which you are having the procedure but not necessarily the surgeon’s fees. Check with them to see if they accept your insurance, then call your insurance company to see what amount of the surgeon’s fee they cover.

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Kathy's lifelong love of food sent her looking for a way to make her passion into a profession. She spent two years at Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Arts school in Las Vegas. Following graduation she spent several years working in the culinary industry learning from some of the best in both cuisine and pastry. Kathy loves to travel and find new tastes and combinations to inspire her. She is currently the head chef of a restaurant.

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