What questions should I ask my doctor before orthopedic surgery?

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Are you considering having orthopedic surgery? During stressful conversations with a doctor, it is easy to overlook even the most basic question. Bringing a list of questions to your next appointment can help you feel more in control.

What should I expect right after surgery – and for the first two days?

More importantly, says Dr. Andrew Grose, orthopedic trauma surgeon at HSS Stamford in Stamford, Connecticut, “patient education is a crucial part of a healthy recovery.”

Many hospitals and surgery centers educate patients and caregivers about what to expect before, during, and after surgery.

But it’s also important that you take the time to prepare and think about everything you want to know and plan ahead of surgery.

Do your homework, ask lots of questions

Before your appointment, keep a record of your pain history to share with your healthcare provider. Having a complete and accurate report can help your doctor understand the big picture associated with your condition.

Information to include in your pain history:

  • When did the pain start?
  • Where is the pain (include all locations)?
  • What makes it worse?
  • What makes it better?
  • What effective have you tried?
  • What was not effective?

Diagnostic questions to ask

  • What is the diagnosis?
  • What is the expected result? And what, if any, are the potential side effects?
  • What are the specific risks or complications of the treatment?
  • Will it affect other parts of my body?
  • What can I do to prevent this from getting worse? Or come back again?

Preoperative questions to ask:

  • What type(s) of “prehabilitation” services do you offer? Are there any exercises that I should do now (or avoid), even if they are painful?
  • What can I expect in terms of patient education? And when?
  • Will I need dental care before my operation? (According to the Mayo Clinic, a dental exam at least four weeks before certain surgeries is necessary to rule out tooth abscess, tooth infection, or gum disease.)

Surgery-related questions to ask:

  • What are my non-surgical and surgical options?
  • How many times have you performed this operation?
  • What if I want a second or third opinion?
  • How long does the procedure take?
  • Will the operation be done in hospital or on an outpatient basis? If hospitalized, how long will I be in the hospital?

Tip: The 72 hour observation policy

Ask your doctor if a 72-hour observation policy is available at their hospital or clinic. This means that although the surgery will be performed on an ‘outpatient’ basis, if deemed medically necessary, you can stay there for up to 72 hours before being discharged home or to a rehabilitation centre.

Postoperative questions to ask:

  • What medications, including painkillers, will be prescribed?
  • Can I call the prescription before surgery so I can get it when I get home?
  • Do any of these medications, alone or in combination, increase the risk of falling?
  • What should I expect right after surgery – and for the first two days?
  • If I need to be seen after I get home, which hospital emergency room should I go to? (Find out where your doctor has hospital admission privileges for emergencies.)
  • What type of postoperative care will I need (wound care, medication, bath, etc.)?
  • What resources, including nursing facilities or skilled caregivers, are available to me?
  • What does physiotherapy look like after surgery?
  • How long until full recovery?
  • When can I expect to drive again?
  • How do I apply for a disabled parking permit so I have it when needed?
  • How soon can I return to work after surgery?

Communication-related questions to ask:

  • How can I get in touch with you or your staff if I need anything before or after surgery?
  • How can I get in touch with you or your staff on weekends?

Cost Questions

What is covered by the insurance? When discussing service costs and types of user fees, be sure to ask about ancillary fees as well. Ancillary services and/or supplies are expenses that are not directly provided by your health care provider or covered under inpatient accommodation and meals.

Examples: ambulance, anesthesiologist, laboratory services, therapy, as well as durable medical equipment such as hospital beds, walkers or oxygen equipment.

Sheryl Stillman
Sheryl Stillman is a former retail executive turned freelance writer and change management consultant. She enjoys writing on a variety of topics, including aging, technology, and solo travel. Learn more about sherylonline.com. Read more

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What questions should I ask my doctor before orthopedic surgery?
Here are some questions to help you prepare for your next intervention

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