Planning Ahead for Surgery

No surgery is risk free. It is important to learn about the possible benefits and risks involved in any surgical procedure.

Ask your physician these questions about the surgery:

  1. What operation are you recommending?
  2. Why do I need the operation?
  3. Are there alternatives to surgery?
  4. What are the benefits of having the operation?
  5. What are the risks of having the operation?
  6. What will happen if I don’t have this operation?
  7. Where can I get a second opinion?
  8. What has been your experience in doing the operation? How many have you performed?
  9. Where will the operation be done?
  10. What kind of anesthesia will I need?
  11. How long will it take me to recover?
  12. How much will the operation cost?

Pre-surgery tests — Do you need them?

Depending on the kind of surgery, you may need an X-ray or an imaging test to make sure it’s safe for you to have the surgery. But not everyone needs them. Visit the Choosing Wisely patient resources page for more information.

Inpatient or outpatient surgery?

Inpatient care is done in a hospital where you will stay overnight at least once.

Outpatient care takes place in a hospital or a freestanding surgery center. Afterward you are released to recuperate at home. These procedures are less expensive because they do not require an overnight stay in a hospital room.

Preparing for surgery

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your care so that you may fully understand your treatment plan and expected outcomes. You and your family and friends will be able to better facilitate your recovery.
  • If you have diabetes, be sure that you and your doctor discuss the best way to control your blood sugar before, during and after your hospital stay. High blood sugar increases the risk of infection noticeably.
  • If you are overweight, losing weight will reduce the risk of infection following surgery.
  • If you are a smoker, you should consider a smoking cessation program. This will reduce the chance of developing a lung infection while in the hospital and may also improve your healing abilities following surgery.
  • Consider banking your blood. You can have some of your own blood drawn and stored before surgery. That way if you need a blood transfusion, you will get your own blood. This reduces the risk of infection or a bad reaction.
  • Ask about non-prescription pain relievers. Ask your doctor if you should stop taking aspirin or other blood thinners. You may want to use acetaminophen (Tylenol and generic) for pain relief. Avoid ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, and generic) and naproxen (Aleve and generic) because they can cause bleeding.
  • You may want to choose a patient advocate – someone you trust to act on your behalf while you are receiving treatment.

Safety tips for your recovery

While you are recovering from surgery, remember to take steps to prevent infections. You play an important role in your safety. Communication with your doctor and nurses is key to preventing infections and mistakes in your treatment.

Make sure your doctor or nurse checks your ID bracelet before administering your medication. This step will help your health care team to avoid mistakes and safely manage your medication in the hospital.

When you’re ready to leave the hospital, talk to your doctor and take steps to safely manage your medication at home.