When you’re told you’re going under the knife, there are a lot of things to take into your consideration. Maybe it has come as a surprise, maybe you knew it was coming. It can be a shock to the system and a lot to take on board. You probably have a lot of questions. Some will be quite obvious, some will relate to general surgery and others to your specific operation, and others may just slip your mind. 8 questions to keep in mind …
1. What am I actually having done? Sounds like quite an obvious one. You wouldn’t agree to an operation without knowing what it is, right? But it’s a good idea to get to know exactly what they’re doing, how it’s done, what materials (if any) are being used. This will help you understand what’s going on with your body and explain any follow-up to your GP/other specialists in future.
2. Who can I contact after the op if I have any problems? Do you have the contact details for your surgeon or his/her secretary? Do you have a specialist or a specific nurse you can contact? If any problems or questions arise, it’s good to know a number and/or email address as you can’t always rely on your GP being the best option after surgery.
3. What potential complications are there? Aside from the general risks with any operation, such as blood loss or side-effects of any drugs, what are the possible risks and complications of the specific surgery you are having? Are there any risk factors that make you more susceptible to them, or any additional health issues or intolerances they may need to know about before going ahead? No matter how big or small, complete clarity and openness here is important for further down the line, just in case.
4. What is the possibility that this op could make my symptoms worse? Sometimes an operation is done to relieve the symptoms of a problem without a guarantee it will help. Aside from any complications, however, is there a chance the operation could make your current symptoms worse? You need all of the facts to weigh up the best option for you. Forewarned is forearmed.
5. How long can I expect to be in hospital for? This can of course vary quite considerably depending on how the operation goes and your overall health, but generally speaking do they expect you to be in there overnight, 3-4 nights, longer..?
6. What does the road to recovery look like? This is a big one. I discovered myself a total lack of support and advice when leaving the hospital, and only learned all of the important stuff when I got online and found support groups myself. Surgeons and nurses tend to give generalisations, like “6 weeks” for recovery. But what else do you need to know? What can do you or not do after the surgery? What ‘rough’ timeframe can you expect so you can let your employer know? What about food, drink, medication afterwards? It’s also worth checking if your op and recovery period will affect your ability to drive and your insurance (especially when it comes to travel insurance).
7. Will there be stitches? If so, are they dissolvable? When and where will they be removed? Do dressings need to be changed? Sometimes you can go to your GP to have such things done, other times they may ask to see you back in the hospital.
8. What preparation do I need to do on the run-up to the op? It goes without saying that the basic “healthy” suggestions apply here, such as cutting down on the “bad” things (stress, smoking, drinking) and increasing the “good” things (plenty of sleep, relaxation, some exercise). But what about any specific things that may need to be adhered to on the run-up to the surgery; tablets to be taken, a diet to follow etc?