1. What are your credentials and training experience?
Patients are often referred to a surgeon by their primary care physician; however, it is important to know what qualifies the surgeon to perform your procedure. Ask your surgeon if he/she is “board certified” in plastic surgery.
2. How many procedures of this type have you performed?
In addition to knowing your surgeon’s credentials, it is important to know the level of experience he/she has in performing your procedure. Choosing an experienced surgeon is one way to ensure good results.
3. Are there alternatives to surgery?
Sometimes, surgery is not the only answer. You might be able to achieve the desired results through non-surgical treatments. Ask your surgeon about the benefits and risks of these alternatives so you can make an informed decision.
4. What do I need to do to prepare for surgery?
Certain surgeries require that you stop smoking, lose weight or follow a specific diet limiting the food you eat and the medications you take prior to your surgery; or, there may be medications that your surgeon wants you to take before your procedure.
Make sure that you speak to your surgeon and your anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist about any allergies or about any conditions for which you are taking medication. You should mention any vitamins, supplements or over-the-counter medications as well.
5. What are the risks?
Every surgery has some associated risk. Weigh the benefits of the procedure against the risks of side effects and complications (e.g. nausea, vomiting, pain, infection, or blood clots) before making your decision.
6. How can I better manage post-surgical side effects and complications such as nausea, vomiting, pain, infection or bleeding?
Some post-surgical side effects and complications are more manageable than others. Make sure you speak to your surgeon about your risk of experiencing side effects and complications and about any medications he/she may prescribe to minimize these symptoms. For example, your surgeon may prescribe a medication before surgery to minimize nausea and vomiting or prescribe something for pain.
7. How will side effects or complications be handled?
If you should experience a side effect or complication after surgery, find out who will be available to address your concerns and when. Ask if any additional costs will be incurred should you need additional treatment.
8. How long of a recovery period can I expect, and what kind of help will I need during my recovery?
Some surgeries take longer to recover from than others. Make sure you speak to your surgeon about how long it will take to heal, as well as how you might physically feel immediately following your surgery. Your surgeon will be able to inform you of the arrangements necessary to ease your recovery.
9. Will my recovery keep me from my usual, daily activities such as work?
The recovery time associated with your surgery is dependent on the nature and length of the procedure. To ensure that you don’t slow your recovery, make sure you speak to your surgeon about the things you may or may not be able to do in the first few days, weeks and months after surgery.
10. Where and how will you perform my procedure?
Find out if your surgery will be performed in a hospital, office, or ambulatory facility. If performed in an office or ambulatory facility, check if it is accredited, which means the facility has passed strict guidelines for equipment, staff, hospital access, anesthesia administration, and more. ASPS requires all members who perform surgery under anesthesia to do so in an accredited facility. Also, if your procedure will be performed in an office or ambulatory facility ensure your doctor has privileges to perform the same procedure at an accredited hospital.
Many surgeries require anesthesia and certain types have a greater risk of post-surgical side effects and complications. Make sure you speak to the person administering it to find out what type of anesthesia is required for your procedure (e.g. local, regional, or general anesthesia) and the side effects or complications that may be associated with it.
Often there are multiple techniques for one procedure. Ask your surgeon which surgical technique may be best for you. A less invasive technique may mean less time under anesthesia and ultimately fewer side effects and complications.