While the abilities of a modern surgeon are almost miraculous, most people understand that there are risks associated with surgical procedures. Consequently, many people will ask their doctor or surgeon lots of questions about the procedure in order to know what to expect and prevent any problems.

Unfortunately, some of these same people think that once they’re out of surgery they are in the clear. That is not the case: sometimes the first few hours after surgery can be just as precarious as the procedure itself.

For this reason, Ross Feller Casey, LLP is providing this checklist of questions to ask your surgeon about your post-operative care:

What should you ask your surgeon about your post-operative care?

Remember that the greatest risk of any surgery, other than complex procedures or emergency trauma cases, is anesthesia complications and the immediate post-op period.

  • Ask your doctor or surgeon about their experience with this procedure or surgery:
    • How many times have they performed it?
    • Is there anything you should be watching for as the patient recovers?

    Ask your doctor or surgeon about the members of their surgical team and each of their levels of experience:

    • How many people will be assisting them?
    • Have they worked with this team before?
    • Is there anyone new on their team who has not yet assisted with this procedure?

    Who is going to be watching and monitoring the patient after the procedure?

    • Can you sit with the patient after they are out of surgery?
    • Is one nurse assigned to be with the patient the entire time?
    • How can you receive frequent updates about the patient’s recovery status?

    Can you meet the anesthesiologist before the procedure? Ask them questions similar to your surgeon’s:

    • What is their experience in assisting with this procedure?
    • Who will assist them? Have they worked on this team before?

    What type of pain medications will be given after the surgery, and what are the side-effects of those drugs?

    You should not be afraid to question the caregiver about their qualifications and experience. Just because someone is an MD does not make him or her competent or caring.

    When undergoing surgery, remember that the surgeon is just one member of the team: you should also get some reassurance about the rest of the team. Encourage the surgeon to take responsibility for the staff by letting them know that you are holding them responsible for the care given by the other team members.

    On the day of the surgery, you should have a chance to meet the anesthesia team, not so much to challenge them at the last moment, but to personalize the relationship. Sometimes there is no personal ownership and that is important when caring for others.

    Especially when minors are having surgical procedures, it is not unreasonable to request to be able to sit with them in their recovery room. Get an understanding of facility policies and procedures as well as what to expect the day of surgery. Even if you can’t physically sit with the patient (especially children and the elderly), there should be some protocol for frequent updates on their status.