Questions to Ask Your Surgeon

Questions to Ask Your Surgeon

In director John Hughes’s 1989 movie Uncle Buck, Buck (John Candy) is the last person you’d trust to babysit your kids. But a family emergency puts him in charge of his nephews and niece. Eight-year-old nephew Miles grills Buck about his credentials. “Do you have a house?” “Apartment,” replies Buck. “Own or rent?” asks Miles. “Rent.”  “Where’s your office?” “I don’t have one.”

If you’re choosing a surgeon, you want to be as discerning as Miles, and you need better answers. So, once you’ve eliminated other treatment options, such as physical therapy, medication, or lifestyle changes, here are the questions to ask to make sure you’re in good hands:   

  • How often do you perform this surgery? (The surgeon should do the procedure multiple times weekly.)
  • What’s your success rate, and what complications occur most frequently? How do you deal with them?
  • Are you board certified? Are you a member of the American College of Surgeons? No? Look elsewhere.
  • What’s your infection rate? What’s the rate of infections at the institution where you will perform the surgery?
  • What anesthesia is usually employed for this? If the answer is “general” or “regional” (spinal or nerve block), follow-up with, “Will I meet the anesthesiologist?” (No? Go elsewhere. Yes? Ask the same questions about his/her training.)
  • If it applies: “Do you usually work with a particular physical therapist or rehabilitation center?”
  • How can I contact you if I have more questions?

If you’re satisfied with the answers, get it done and look forward to getting better soon!

Medically reviewed in January 2019.

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