Surgery is a terrifying prospect for most people. When you put your life in someone else's hands, how do you know if you can trust them? How do you know if they are safe?
Here are few things you need to think about before you make a decision:
1) Are they qualified professionally?
Your doctor should have no problem showing you his credentials if you require them to. Most of them will have it hanging on their wall. Remember that just because they are a doctor, does NOT mean they are a surgeon. You should also be able to confidently ask them how many times they have performed that operation or procedure and their success rates.
2) Have you been informed about your diagnosis?
You need to know why you require surgery. Your disease should be explained to you in a manner that you can understand without any medical jargon. Your diagnosis should be supported by other relevant blood tests or radiological imaging (Xrays, CT scans, etc).
3) Have they explained your options of treatment?
For most conditions, surgery is NOT the only option. In fact, for most conditions, it is one of the last options. You should be aware of other treatment options before considering surgery.
4) Have they explained the consent form to you?
The consent form states that you allow the surgeon to proceed with the operation. It implies that you are not being forced to undergo the operation and that you understand what is going to happen to you. This is normally signed on admission to the hospital ward prior to your day of operation. Sometimes, it is signed at the clinic where you met your surgeon and discussed your options. Before you sign this form, it is important that the possible risks have been explained to you. This will include risks from the operation and risks from the anaesthetic.
5) Are they willing to answer your questions?
The decision to undergo surgery should be a joint decision made by the patient and doctor. Extra effort should be made to ensure you are comfortable with what is about to happen. They should not be offended when you ask about alternative treatments, second opinions, etc. It also helps a lot to know the answer to some of your questions beforehand, so that you can gauge the credibility of your surgeon's answers.
6) Did they ask you about your allergy history, previous medical history and any relevant family conditions which might affect your treatment?
This is important for your surgeon to know as it may have implications as to which drugs can be prescribed and which operation should be performed.
7) Will they be around to check on you after the operation is finished?
This is important for your continuation of care. Nobody can explain what happened during the surgery better than the person who did it. It is important for you to know whether there were any complications and if there are any subsequent changes in the treatment plan.
8) Are they up to date?
Even though certain procedures or facilities may only be available in very specialised hospitals, your surgeon should at least be aware of them. By doing your own research, you will be able to judge if your surgeon has been keeping up with the latest advancements and whether you are getting the best care available in your area.
9) Ask around.
More specifically, ask the nurses. They are the ones who see the surgeon's results. They can give you the most honest feedback, or better still, vouch for your surgeon's success rates. Ask whether you can contact his previous patients.
10) Are they rushing you to make a decision?
This should never be the case. You should not be coerced into having surgery for any reason. If you are uncomfortable with anything that has been discussed with your surgeon, they should understand your need to think about it first.
The decision to go for surgery is a heavy one. Fortunately for most patients, surgery can be planned ahead of time and that means plenty of time to figure out if your surgeon is the best man or woman for the job.
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