10 Questions To Ask Your Surgeon

Surgery can be scary. Asking the right questions to become more comfortable with your surgeon and your procedure can help alleviate some of your worries.

1. Are you board certified?

Most physicians (and all of ours at Michigan Surgery Specialists) are either board certified or if they are a newer physician, board eligible. Initially, physicians have to pass their medical board exams in their specialty and sub-specialty within 5 years of completing residency/fellowship. The physicians within this 5 year period are considered “board eligible”. After passing their initial board exams, physicians have to renew their certifications by repeating their board exams every 10 years. Physicians who are not board certified/eligible or who do not renew their certifications are often unable to accept most insurances and unable to perform surgeries at most hospitals.

2. Do you take my insurance?

This is a question you should ask before you have your first consultation. If your doctor does not accept your insurance, you’re looking at a larger medical bill than necessary; even sizable if you require surgery! At Michigan Surgery Specialists, we ask you for your insurance information ahead of time to ensure that you are scheduled with a provider that accepts your insurance. However, not all practices operate this way. You can typically find a list of “in-network” providers by contacting your insurance company (usually with a phone number found on the back of your insurance card) or by visiting your insurance provider’s website.

3. What hospitals do you go to?

Surgeons are individually credentialed at different hospitals. Not all doctors go to every hospital and not every hospital allows a physician regular surgery time. It is important to ask about hospital choices ahead of time as it can have an affect on your medical insurance or your referring physician. Going to the hospital that is closest to your home is not always an option.

4. Do you specialize in a particular area?

This might seem like a no-brainer but it is a more complex question than you’d think. Just because a surgeon is able to conduct your surgery, doesn’t mean they are the best person for the job. Many surgeons have sub-specialties within their general field in which they are more experienced in. For example, while a general orthopedic surgeon is capable of completing a carpal tunnel release, a fellowship trained hand specialist is more suited for that type of procedure. You can generally figure out if your surgeon is right for you by either asking them what they specialize in, or reading their profiles online to see if they are fellowship trained in a particular field. Fellowships are training programs a doctor is accepted into following their residency to gain additional knowledge and experience in a sub-specialty, such as hand surgery or sports medicine.

5. How many of these particular cases have you done?

No one wants to be a guinea pig to a physician’s new surgery. Asking your doctor about the experience they have in your particular procedure will give you a clue as to how well your surgery will go. The more often your specialist has performed the procedure, the more favorable your outcome will likely be.

6. Does this procedure have any long lasting effects?

Some procedures are simple, take minimal recovery time and you never experience the medical issue ever again. Other procedures can be short term solutions, but are not a long term fix. Sometimes the same surgery will need to be repeated in the future, other times the first procedure or medical condition can lead to other issues down the road, requiring a different procedure later on. Your surgeon should be able to outline all of the possible outcomes for you and any future surgeries related to your issue that may become necessary down the road.

7. How long will I be off work?

Every surgery is different and requires a different recovery time. Getting a general timeline from your physician prior to surgery will allow you to plan ahead for the days, weeks and months after surgery. Remember, as a patient you also play a role in the recovery process. Factors such as smoking, your living habits, adhering to follow-up protocol and completing therapy exercises can all affect recovery time. Depending on your issue, your doctor may be able to issue a return-to-work note with restrictions while you continue your recovery process.

8. What is the recovery like for my particular case?

Again, every procedure is different so there is not a one size fits all answer, but knowing what the recovery process will be like ahead of time will help you prepare for what’s ahead. Some outpatient procedures require minimal recovery time, allowing patients to go back to work and their usual day-to-day within a few days. Other procedures can be more extensive, requiring casts, physical or occupational therapy, restricted movement or other limitations for weeks to months afterwards. It is important to ask this question once surgery is the determined course so that you, your employer and your care givers can make any necessary arrangements and accommodations as soon as possible.

9. Do I have to have surgery?

Surgery is not always the best choice! Sometimes attempting more conservative treatments, such as therapy, bracing or just giving your body time can be the better way to go. Talking with your doctor about ALL of your options could help save your body from surgery.

10.Would you recommend this course of action for yourself/ your family?

This may seem like an obvious question, but is often overlooked. Simply put, if your surgeon wouldn’t recommend this to someone close to them, then you should seek a second opinion. You want to know that your surgeon is looking out for YOU and your best interests, not just looking to perform another surgery to make an extra buck.

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Hand Surgery

Orthopedics/ Sports Medicine and Spine

Outpatient Therapy

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