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Smart Decisions: Know Your Options

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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?

Use this surgery information form(What is a PDF document?) to help you.

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.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 25, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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