Skip to content

    50+: Live Better, Longer

    Font Size

    What to Ask Your Surgeon Before an Operation

    By Kara Mayer Robinson
    WebMD Feature

    Getting nervous as the big day approaches? You'll feel more relaxed if you meet with your surgeon beforehand to get your questions answered. He can tell you what to expect and explain how to prepare.

    Where will the operation take place?

    Most surgeries used to happen at hospitals, says Frederick L. Greene, MD, FACS, a medical director at the Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, N.C. Now many are done in an "outpatient" center, which means you don't have to stay overnight.

    What will happen during surgery?

    Ask your surgeon to walk you through the steps. Find out what kind of technique will be used.

    Also ask about the type of anesthesia you'll get to keep you numb and pain-free during the operation.

    Who will be involved?

    A group of professionals will take care of you before, during, and after surgery. Besides the surgeon, there may be an anesthesiologist, nurses, and assisting doctors.

    Todd J. Albert, MD, surgeon-in-chief at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, suggests you ask your surgeon who's on your medical team and how much experience they have.

    What can I do to prepare?

    Find out what you'll need to do to get ready. For instance:

    • Will I need to get tests?
    • Do I need to give blood?
    • Are there certain medicines I need to take?
    • Will I have to stop eating or drinking at a certain time?

    Ask your doctor what you can do before surgery to boost the odds of a good result, Albert says. He may want you to exercise or improve your nutrition.

    There may also be things you shouldn't do. For example, you may have to limit or avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and specific medications.

    What's the recovery like?

    Get details about what you can and can't do after your procedure. You may need to take time off from work or get help to care for yourself or your kids.

    Consider things like:

    • How long will I be in the hospital?
    • When I'm home, will I need special help, supplies to care for my surgical cut, or medication?
    • Will I need physical therapy?
    • When will I feel back to my old self again?
    • Is there anything I can do to help my recovery?

    Ask for a timeline. "Find out what you'll be able to do on day 1, day 5, etc.," Albert says. Many surgeons have a fact sheet with all these things listed.

    Today on WebMD

    Eating for a longer, healthier life.
    woman biking
    How to stay vital in your 50s and beyond.
    womans finger tied with string
    Learn how we remember, and why we forget.
    senior female patient with doctor
    What to watch out for after age 50.
    fast healthy snack ideas
    how healthy is your mouth
    dog on couch
    doctor holding syringe
    champagne toast
    Two women wearing white leotards back to back
    Man feeding woman
    two senior women laughing