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?
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.