Get the Basic Facts
Why Do I Need an
There are many reasons to have
surgery. Some operations can
relieve or prevent pain. Others can
reduce a symptom of a problem or
improve some body function.
Some surgeries are done to find a
problem. Surgery can also save
your life. Your doctor will tell you
the purpose of the procedure.
Make sure you understand how the
proposed operation will help fix your medical problem. For example,
if something is going to be repaired or removed, find out why it
needs to be done.
What Operation Are You Recommending?
Ask your surgeon to explain the surgery and how it is done. Your
surgeon can draw a picture or a diagram and explain the steps in the
Is there more than one way of doing the operation? One way may
require more extensive surgery than another. Some operations that
once needed large incisions (cuts in the body) can now be done using
much smaller incisions (for example, laparoscopic surgery).
Some surgeries require that you stay in the hospital for 1 or more
days. Others let you come in and go home on the same day. Ask why
your surgeon wants to do the operation one way over another.
Some surgeries that used to need a large incision can now be
done using a few small cuts. Instead of a large scar, you will
have only a few small scars. Usually, you will recover from this
type of surgery more quickly. These incisions let doctors insert a
thin tube with a camera (a laparoscope) into the body to help
them see. Then they use small tools to do the surgery. This type
of surgery is called laparoscopic surgery. Removing the
gallbladder, for example, is now mostly done with this type of
Are There Alternatives To Surgery?
Sometimes, surgery is not the only answer to a medical problem.
Medicines or treatments other than surgery, such as a change in diet
or special exercises, might help you just as well—or more. Ask your
surgeon or primary care doctor about the benefits and risks of these
other choices. You need to know as much as possible about these
benefits and risks to make the best decision.
One alternative to surgery may be watchful waiting. During a
watchful wait, your doctor and you check to see if your problem gets
better or worse over time. If it gets worse, you may need surgery
right away. If it gets better, you may be able to wait to have surgery
or not have it at all.
How Much Will the Operation Cost?
Even if you have health insurance, there may be some costs for you
to pay. This may depend on your choice of surgeon or hospital. Ask
what your surgeon's fee is and what it covers. Surgical fees often also
include some visits after the operation. You also will get a bill from the hospital for your care and from the other doctors who gave you
care during your surgery.
Before you have the operation, call your insurance company. They
can tell you how much of the costs your insurance will pay and what
share you will have to pay. If you are covered by Medicare, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) to find out your share of