9. Where will the operation be done?
Most surgeons practice at one or two local hospitals. Surgeries are also performed at Ambulatory or Same Day surgery centers. Find out where your operation will be performed. Have many of the operations you are thinking about having been done in this hospital? Some operations have higher success rates if they are done in hospitals that do many of those procedures. Ask your doctor about the success rate at this hospital. If the hospital has a low success rate for the operation in question, you should ask to have it at another hospital.
Until recently, most surgery was performed on an inpatient basis and patients stayed in the hospital for one or more days. Today, a lot of surgery is done on an outpatient basis in a doctor's office, a special surgical center, or a day surgery unit of a hospital. Outpatient surgery is less expensive because you do not have to pay for staying in a hospital room.
Ask whether your operation will be done in the hospital or in an outpatient setting. If your doctor recommends inpatient surgery for a procedure that is usually done as outpatient surgery, or just the opposite, recommends outpatient surgery that is usually done as inpatient surgery, ask why. You want to be in the right place for your operation.
10. What kind of anesthesia will I need?
Anesthesia is used so that surgery can be performed without unnecessary pain. Your surgeon can tell you whether the operation calls for local, regional, or general anesthesia, and why this form of anesthesia is recommended for your procedure.
Local anesthesia numbs only a part of your body for a short period of time, for example, a tooth and the surrounding gum. Not all procedures done with local anesthesia are painless. Regional anesthesia numbs a larger portion of your body, for example, the lower part of your body for a few hours. In most cases, you will be awake with regional anesthesia. General anesthesia numbs your entire body for the entire time of the surgery. You will be unconscious if you have general anesthesia.
Local anesthesia numbs only a part of your body for a short period of time, for example, a tooth and the surrounding gum. Not all procedures done with local anesthesia are painless.
Regional anesthesia numbs a larger portion of your body, for example, the lower part of your body for a few hours. In most cases, you will be awake with regional anesthesia.
General anesthesia numbs your entire body for the entire time of the surgery. You will be unconscious if you have general anesthesia.
Anesthesia is quite safe for most patients and is usually administered by a specialized physician (anesthesiologist) or nurse anesthetist. Both are highly skilled and have been specially trained to give anesthesia. In our region anesthesia is perfomed by Associated Anesthesiologists of Reno (775-348-1900), Sierra Anesthesiologists (775-348-1313), or indepent anesthesiologists.
If you decide to have an operation, ask to meet with the person who will give you anesthesia. Find out what his or her qualifications are. Ask what the side effects and risks of having anesthesia are in your case. Be sure to tell him or her what medical problems you have including allergies and any medications you have been taking, since they may affect your response to the anesthesia.
11. How long will it take me to recover?
Your surgeon can tell you how you might feel and what you will be able to do or not do the first few days, weeks, or months after surgery. Ask how long you will be in the hospital. Find out what kind of supplies, equipment, and any other help you will need when you go home. Knowing what to expect can help you cope better with recovery.
Ask when you can start regular exercise again and go back to work. You do not want to do anything that will slow down the recovery process. Lifting a 10-pound bag of potatoes may not seem to be "too much" a week after your operation, but it could be. You should follow your surgeon's advice to make sure you recover fully as soon as possible.
12. How much will the operation cost?
Health insurance coverage for surgery can vary, and there may be some costs you will have to pay. Before you have the operation, call your insurance company to find out how much of these costs it will pay and how much you will have to pay yourself.
Ask what your surgeon's fee is and what it covers. Surgical fees often also include several visits after the operation. You also will be billed by the hospital for inpatient or outpatient care and by the anesthesiologist and others providing care related to your operation.
You will want to know that your surgeon is experienced and qualified to perform the operation. Many surgeons have taken special training and passed exams given by a national board of surgeons. Ask if your surgeon is "board certified" in surgery. Some surgeons also have the letters F.A.C.S. after their name. This means they are Fellows of the American College of Surgeons and have passed another review by surgeons of their surgical practices.