Questions To Ask Your Surgeon

Daniel Reeves (Physiotherapist – Burnie)

In November 2018 I attended a seminar in Sydney and was fortunate to hear from an Orthopedic Surgeon. I thought I would share some of the points he spoke about regarding surgery and when it should be utilised as a treatment option. So here goes…

  • Surgery is a controlled injury to the body. It causes an inflammatory response for tissue healing just like any other injury.
  • Injured or operated tissue will follow the phases of natural tissue healing (inflammation, proliferation, and remodeling).
  • Surgery is performed when there is the inability to obtain and maintain a satisfactory position for healing by closed or non-operative means.
  • Surgery is elective, not selective. Treatment should be directed at the patient, not just treating the scan results “treat the (wo)man not the scan”.
  • In most instances, surgery is a last resort. Surgery should not be performed just because conservative management failed and surgery should not be exploratory.
  • You cannot operate on pain.

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Here at the clinic we see a variety of people who have had or who are preparing for surgery. If that is you, it is important that you are well informed prior to surgery.

Here are some questions you can ask your surgeon to be better informed about your surgery. Write them down or print them out and take them with you to your next consultation.

What is the surgery you are going to perform and what does it involve?

  • We have many patients in for prehab or post-operative rehab who are unsure what surgical procedure they are having or have had performed. Gain an understanding for what the surgery is and what it involves so you know what to expect.

What is the evidence for this type of surgery?

  • If you’re having a surgical procedure it should be backed up by high quality evidence. At present, some surgical procedures are under scrutiny because research is showing they are no better than placebo surgery or non-surgical management.

Why is this surgery needed?

  • The surgeon should be able to explain exactly why you need the surgery and what benefit it will be to you.

Are their simpler or safer options?

  • Is surgery the only option? There may be a number of conservative / non-operative management options that you haven’t explored that may be of benefit to you.

What is the cost?

  • It is important to ask about and contemplate the financial, time and emotional cost of surgery and rehab. How long will you require off work? Will you have to give up your favourite hobby? It is advisable to also think about the cost of unnecessary scans, medicines or the surgery itself.

What will happen if I don’t have the surgery?

  • Will things become more painful? Will I improve?

What are the risks?

  • You should be aware of potential side-effects, the complications and how common they are.

How long can I expect recovery to take?

  • It is important that you know what to expect for your recovery. Surgery is rarely a quick fix and there will be a period of healing and rehab needed.

What rehab will I need after my surgery?

  • Often after surgery some form of rehab will be required. This may involve physiotherapy or exercise physiology to help get you moving and achieve a great outcome from your surgery. We have seen patients that have had surgery but have not known that they required rehab. This leads them to attend our clinic months after surgery which prolongs their recovery.