Questions to ask before surgery

Undergoing a surgery is a big decision considering the amount of cost and time involved. It is the responsibility of the patient to carefully analyze the various options available and choose a treatment which is the most beneficial for him. Choosing a well qualified surgeon and a good hospital is also very important. Apart from this, there are many other things which the patient should know before undertaking surgery.

Following is a list of questions that the patients could ask their doctor to help themselves in selecting a particular treatment and getting to know how to prepare for it and what to expect after the treatment.


  1. What association is the doctor affiliated to? He should be part of at least one formally accredited  medical association.

A patient should confirm whether his/her surgeon is associated to or certified by a local or global medical board. This ensures that the surgeon is well qualified and trained to perform the medical procedures.

A surgeon might be certified by multiple boards depending upon his experience. The better is the certification, the more are the chances of success of the procedure performed by the surgeon. A well certified surgeon with considerable experience will always have a record of successful procedures and satisfied patients to show.

After consulting the surgeon, the patient should cross examine the claims made by the surgeon regarding his affiliation to a board with the official board records to check if they are right or not. The patients can also ask the surgeon to show the certificate issued to the latter by that particular board.


  1. What is the name of technique you are going to use? Mind here, almost all surgical techniques are known by one or more technical names.

Every medical procedure or technique has a distinct name. These names are given to distinguish various techniques of the same treatment. A patient should enquire about the names of the surgical techniques that he/she will undergo during treatment.

This will help him to research about the technique and get to know if he should undergo treatment or not. The surgeon is best suited to decide which treatment is required, but the patient is advised to discuss it with him. Some techniques are suited only to some particular body types. Also, some techniques may be more prone to complications or side effects after the surgery.

Therefore, knowing the name of the technique and gathering essential information about it helps a patient to get mentally, physically and medically prepared for the procedure.


  1. Ask about the common possibility of nerve or hair loss after the surgery and where will they be located.

Nerve or hair loss are common problems that occur after surgery, resulting mostly from the post surgical stress. Sometimes, these problems also happen due to the anesthesia administered in the body which affects the functioning of hair follicles and nerves. This hair loss is due to inadequate blood flow due which hair follicles cease hair production.

However, hair loss is temporary and the patient should wait at least for an year for the hair to grow back. Postsurgical hair problems generally disappear in an year and if they do not, hair transplant can be carried out. Hair loss generally occurs at the sites where anesthesia is administered during surgery.

Global or regional nerve block anesthesia, inflammation in the tissues around the nerve, direct bruise on the nerve can render the nerves inactive. Patient with a history of problems like drinking, diabetes, vitamin deficiency are at larger risks of suffering from nerve problems after the surgery. However, the dead nerves can be revived by techniques such as acupuncture, topical creams, medications like glutamine and B6, etc.


  1. Are scars or marks common after the surgery, if yes, how early can they go?


The permanency of the scar after the surgery hugely depends on aftercare like avoiding the sun. Make sure you follow the doctor’s guidelines to ensure optimum results.

Scars are normal after surgeries like browlift, hip replacement, etc. Incisions and stitches can result in scars, though surgeons try to prevent the scars from developing by making clean and minute incisions. The more skilled the surgeon, the less is the number and severity of scars.

Scars can usually heal in a few weeks to 1-2 months but it may take upto an year for them to fully disappear. Various treatments like laser therapy, steroid injections, etc. can be used to cure or cover scars, but surgeons generally recommend to leave the scars to heal naturally.

Postsurgical scars are always minimal and barely noticeable in most of the cases. Even when they are noticeable, they fade away early with medications. Therefore, these scars should not be a hindrance in deciding to opt for a treatment like liposuction or eyelid surgery, that can greatly benefit you.


  1. Longevity of the surgery, for how long does the effect of the procedure last?

Surgeons can considerably reduce signs of ageing for patients through plastic surgery or remove any discomfort in the teeth or eyes or any other body part. The period of time for which the results of the surgery last depend upon the genetics, environmental conditions, skin type and the type of technique used to perform the surgery.

A surgery like an endoscopic browlift usually lasts for 10-12 years. Coronal brow lift lasts more than the endoscopic one. Facelift lasts for 6-10 years. The patient can also get additional procedures like botox, etc. to extend the duration. Procedures like tummy tuck last forever, but your body can still experience weight fluctuations due to pregnancy, diet, etc.

The knowledge of how long the effects of a particular surgery will last will help you to opt for the procedure which is beneficial in the long run. Therefore, you should ask your surgeon about each and every technique that can be used to perform the surgery you want to undergo.


  1. What kind of anesthetic will be used? Will pain medication be required after the procedure?

Make sure that the doctor understands your medical history while choosing the anesthetic to avoid allergic reactions.

The surgeon chooses the anesthetic depending upon the type of surgery and the level of inactivity required in the body. This inactivity is required to keep the region of the body which is being operated upon still, during the surgery. For minor operations, local anesthesia is preferred, whereas regional anesthesia is administered if numbness is required over a significant portion of the body.

If the patient is required to be completely asleep, general anaesthesia is given to the patient through IV injection or face mask, etc. He/she might also be given sleep medications. It is also checked before the surgery if the patient could develop allergies or problems like high fever from anesthesia.

In such cases, the patient can abstain from surgery or choose a different anesthetic or even another treatment. The effect of anesthesia lasts for some hours after the surgery. After this period, pain medications can be taken for a few days till the pain disappears completely.


  1. In the unlikely case of surgery not being successful, will you do corrective surgery before I leave?

Most hospitals have special provisions and policies regarding corrective procedures if the surgery somehow goes wrong. The patient should read and enquire about these policies beforehand. This could save him from going through the trouble of applying and waiting for corrective surgery in case the surgery is unsatisfactory.

In case, the hospital does not provide corrective surgeries, the patient then has to keep another surgeon as a backup for the same. The patient must also consult with his/her insurance provider if the corrective surgery costs can be covered or not. For medical tourists, there is also a provision for medical complication insurance which takes care of such expenses.


  1. How long will it take before I will be able to do activities such as walking out in sun, swimming, dancing etc.?

Resuming your normal routine after a surgical procedure can be either immediate or take up a considerable amount of time depending on the type of procedure. Therefore, the patients need to enquire about this before the procedure to carefully plan their leave from work, etc.

In most of the surgical operations like browlift, facelift, etc. the patient is usually discharged within 24 hours after the surgery. You can resume driving and other day-to-day activities within a week following your surgery. Until then, rest is advised. It may take up to six weeks or more for a patient to resume his regular routine including strenuous activities like exercises, weight lifting, etc.

This information is very important for the patients as overexerting themselves before they get fully cured can lead to severe consequences like opening of sutures. Therefore, the surgeon must guide them well through this.


  1. Why should you be preferred over other surgeons?

Asking this question to the surgeon helps the patient in reducing the risks of the surgery as this makes him decide if the surgeon is fit for his/her treatment or not. The patient can enquire about the certifications, qualifications and medical training of the surgeon.

The surgeon may also be asked about his/her previous experience in such procedures and the number of patients he/she has treated so far. The patients should also ask the surgeon’s success, failure and complication rates and compare these with others.

Also, a particular surgeon could be good at making precise surgical incisions, an expert at making the least noticeable stitches after surgery, etc. These qualities might help you choose him/her over other surgeons.


  1. Should I bank blood before the surgery?

Sometimes, during treatments like spinal surgery, heavy blood loss can occur. In such cases the patient is expected to have a blood transfusion after the surgery. So, his blood is banked few weeks before the surgery. This is done to prevent blood mismatch during transfusion as your own blood is transfused with is readily accepted by your body.

Asking the surgeon whether to bank the blood in advance helps the patient avoid any disease or delay due to mismatched blood during transfusion. However, this is extremely rare. Only 4 out of 1 million blood transfusions, happens to develop a transfusion reaction due to wrong blood type.

Therefore, prior knowledge of all this can help the patient to prepare for the worse as in bank blood for later use. This could also help avoid banking blood unnecessarily if the patient would not need it after surgery.


  1. Will I need help at home from a nurse or clinical staff or medical equipment after the surgery? When should I undergo medical checkup prior to long flight? What all will they check?

In cases where special follow up care is needed, but the patient is unable to do it himself, trained domestic helpers are arranged by the hospital. This is generally the case after procedures like knee or hip surgery, etc. Medical equipment such as heart rate monitors, supplementary oxygen supplies, wheelchairs, etc can also be issued at extra costs. Thus, patients should ask the surgeon about the availability of these equipments before the treatment.

Medical check ups before the treatment include thorough examination of a person’s health to make sure he/she does not have any pre-existing unstable health conditions, purpose of travel, recent medical history, etc. Based on the above analysis, the patient is issued clearance for medications and other assistive equipment like oxygen supplies, etc. He may also be asked to carry an escort for help.

Post surgery air travel is generally not allowed for at least 2 weeks after the surgery.


  1. Is a telephonic consultation possible before the surgery?

Telephonic conversations have become a popular trend in the modern doctor-patient consultation models. Most of the hospitals have special departments which handle telephonic requests from patients in need of appointments, consultation or follow up queries, etc.

Direct telephonic consultation from the surgeon can help both doctor and the patient from face-to-face interactions thereby saving time. This also saves the patient’s time as it avoids delay in treatment because the doctors knows the patient’s condition well before actually meeting the patient.

Telephonic consultations before surgery can help patient to make enquiries regarding the surgeries and prepare for it in the most appropriate way. It is really beneficial for patients undergoing medical tourism as they live far away from the hospitals and cannot afford to travel specially to get the answer to minor doubts.


  1. How many procedures have been performed by hospitals, and their success?

The success rates of a hospital in various procedures act as an indicator of quality and as a tool to compare various hospitals. The number of procedures performed by the hospitals indicates its popularity and how much is it preferred by the patients for that surgery. Patients have the right to enquire about this. Thus, they are strongly advised to ask their doctors about the same.

The ratio of successful to failed procedures conducted by a hospitals can help patients decide whether the hospital is safe and worth their money, however less it might be. If asked by the patients, the hospital must present to them records related to the number of procedures performed, successful procedures, cases in which there were complications, etc.


  1. Proficiency of hospital’s lab / blood bank.

Singapore, a top medical tourism destination, has one of the safest and the biggest blood banks in the world to ensure blood match in all cases.

Apart from the quality of services offered by the doctor and the staff, comprehensive medical lab and blood bank facilities are also essential in deciding whether a hospital is good or not for treatment. A comprehensive lab facility ensures that all the medical tests will be conducted in the same building.

Good labs employ licensed pathologists who conduct various medical tests on the patients using certified equipment to ensure error free and best reports. These pathologists are continuously involved in discussions with the surgeons to aid them in the patient’s treatment.

If the hospital has a personal blood bank then the chances of failure of the procedure due to excessive blood loss are almost close to zero because matching blood type is readily available for transfusion as and when needed. Therefore, the patient should ask his doctor to make sure that the labs and blood bank are licensed and competent enough to serve the needs of the treatment.


  1. Will the hospital extend stay in case of complications?

Unpredictable complications may arise after surgery. These complications may be due to wound infections, blood clots, localized pain, etc. Some complications might require the patient to stay in the hospital for extended durations.

In case complications are severe then it could lead to inability of the patient to be discharged or to be moved to another facility. Therefore, the patient would need to stay in the hospital beyond the usual period of hospitalisation. This knowledge can help the patient as he can opt for medical complications insurance before undergoing treatment.

Therefore, prior knowledge of the hospital’s policies pertaining to patient’s stay in hospital in case of complications can help the patient to decide whether a particular hospital suits his budget and insurance policy or not. If not, he can opt for another hospital with better policies.


The above points outline most of the common concerns of the patients who want to undergo a surgical procedure. Getting answers to these questions from your surgeon will not only make you a well informed patient, but also make you feel more confident and safe about your treatment abroad.

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