Smart Decisions About Surgery
See a list of Decision Points about surgeries. Decision Points are designed to guide you through key health decisions, combining medical information with your personal values to make a wise health decision.
Surgery tends to come with high costs and risks. When the choice to have surgery is not clear, good decisions are even more important.
Learn the facts
- What is the name of the surgery? Get a description of the surgery.
- Why does your doctor think you need the surgery?
- Are there other treatments you could try first?
- Is this surgery the common treatment for this problem? Are there other types of surgery?
Consider the risks and benefits
- How might surgery help you?
- How many similar surgeries has this doctor performed? How many surgeries like this are done at this hospital or medical center?
- What results would you have to get from the surgery for you to consider it a success? How likely are those results?
- What can go wrong if you have surgery? How often does this happen?
- How long would it take to recover from surgery? How much time off would you have to take? What kind of rehab would you need?
- What happens in the short term if you don't have surgery? What might happen over the long run if you don't have it?
- If you need surgery, where should you have it? How can you reduce the chance of an error?
Ask about costs
- How much does the surgery cost? How can you find out?
- Can it be done on an outpatient basis, and is that less expensive?
Talk to your doctor
- How much does the problem really bother you? Are you willing to put up with the symptoms to avoid surgery?
- What are your concerns about the surgery?
- Do you want to have the surgery at this time?
- Do you want a second opinion? Second opinions are helpful if you have any doubt that the surgery proposed is the best option for your problem. If you want a second opinion, ask your primary doctor or surgeon to recommend another specialist. Ask that your test results be sent to the second doctor. Consider getting an opinion from a different type of doctor who treats similar problems.
For more information, see the topic Surgery: What to Expect.