4 Questions spine surgeons hope patients ask before surgery

Written by Dr. David Chang  | June 19, 2017 | Print  |

As a doctor, our goal is to help patients get back to a pre-injury state or to help manage a condition so that a person can live life to the fullest. But we can only do so much. Patients need to put the work in on their end as well if they want to experience the best results from medical treatment.

Any doctor or surgeon will tell you that their favorite patients are the ones who are invested in their health and recovery. In fact, doctors usually have a pretty accurate idea of how well rehab and recovery will go even before the patient goes under the knife. They know this by looking at the patient’s medical history and by weighing expected surgical outcomes, but they also do this by seeing what type of questions the patient asks prior to surgery. The more they are interested in surgical prep, the actual procedure and their rehab, the more likely they are to follow our instructions and experience better results. If a patient asks some or all of the following questions, there’s a good chance they will put themselves in the best position to recover after an operation.


The Four Questions You Should Ask Your Doctor


If you’re a patient, consider asking some of these questions to your doctor if surgery is in your future.


1. “What can I do before surgery to put myself in the best position to have a successful operation?”


Some patients think their job starts when the surgeon’s job is done, but that’s not the case. If you want to put yourself in the best position to have a successful surgery, talk to your doctors about good habits in the weeks and days leading up to surgery. Odds are exercise and a healthy diet will be recommended, along with surgery-specific tips.


2. “What are all my surgical and non-surgical options, and can you explain them to me?”


This shows that the patient is willing to evaluate all their options and make a decision that is best for them. Sometimes surgery isn’t the best option, while other times there’s more than one operation that can provide relief. Consider the doctor’s opinion, but make sure you’re asking them about all your options.


3. “What are the risks, and how are they controlled for?”


This question is helpful on many levels. By learning about the potential risks and discussing how they’ll be controlled for, the patient actually leaves the discussion with more peace of mind, because the fear of the unknown can add a lot of stress as surgery approaches. Also, by knowing what risks are involved, the patient can take steps to mitigate them on their end. For example, if high blood pressure or diabetes can make complications more likely, the patient can talk to their doctor about how to best control those risks as surgery draws near so there’s less likely to be any surprises the day of the operation.


4. “If all goes as planned, what can I expect in the days/weeks/months after surgery?”


This shows the surgeon that the patient wants to begin mentally preparing for life after surgery, which is key. If a patient doesn’t manage their post-op expectations prior to surgery, they can become frustrated or depressed if their rehab is taking longer than they had hoped. By asking this question, you’ll get the answers to questions like “when can I return to work,” “how long will I need help at home” and “how long will full recovery take.” Rehab and physical therapy is much more successful if the patient comes in with a healthy mindset, and that begins well before surgery.


There are plenty more questions you can ask your surgeon before an operation, but those are a few that suggest to the doctor that you are committed to putting yourself in the best position to recover after the operation.


About the Author


Dr. David Chang is a Board Certified Neurosurgeon who specializes in treating Minnesotans with spine and brain conditions. After receiving his M.D and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, he completed his neurosurgical residency at Mount Sinai Hospital, and his neurosurgical fellowship at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. In 2015, he joined the team at Midwest Spine & Brain Institute, where he continues to provide exceptional neurosurgical care to all of his patients.


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