Yes, we’ve all heard them - the hospital horror stories of how someone went under the knife for a routine appendicitis operation and never woke up; or the one about the fatal caesarean section going so wrong that the internal bleeding was virtually unstoppable.
While many of the circulating stories have graced the halls of urban myths, a routine visit to a hospital also does not resemble TV shows like ER or Scrubs.
Surgical procedures of any kind come with a fair share of risk, with dodgy hospitals, fake credentials and unhygienic equipment adding to the grave diagnosis.
And if the nerves aren’t already stretched taut like guitar strings, the situation gets even more difficult emotionally if you have other secondary concerns that need to be addressed, including financial worries and who is left holding the baby while you are bedridden.
With all these problems, sometimes you can add to the mix by simply not asking the right questions to your doctor and not checking out facilities the hospital offers. Follow the Emirates 24|7 checklist of questions, and save yourself a few added stresses and tears on your next surgical procedure:
QUESTIONS TO ASK THE DOCTOR:
What sort of an operation are you suggesting?
The saying, ‘Being forewarned is forearmed’ is very apt for such a scenario. Finding out the details of your surgery can go a long way in understanding the procedure better, and settling your frazzled nerves.
Ask your doctor to explain with diagrams if necessary, and even mark the spot on your body where the surgery will occur. This would be a good time to enquire if there will be any visible scarring and if there are any means to cover it.
Is this operation necessary?
With recent advancements in modern science, what once wasn’t possible without being cut open, today there are several medications that can solve the problem without the long hours and risk in surgery.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
Medicinenet.com advises patients to ask their doctors a few simple questions: What are the non-surgical or medical treatments available to help the condition?
Also consider, what can happen if the operation is not performed? If the operation is not done at this time, can it be done later? What are the consequences if the procedure is postponed or delayed?
Discuss the answers in detail with your medical practitioner and your loved ones, before firming any decisions.
How will the surgery benefit me short-term and long-term?
It would be a good idea to check with your surgeon if the effects of the operation are long lasting, or will they only benefit you for a said duration.
It is not uncommon to have surgical procedures that provide only temporary relief, but will require a secondary major surgery at a later date.
When finding out about the benefits of the operation, be realistic. Sometimes patients expect too much and are disappointed with the outcome.
Ask your doctor if there is any published information about the results of the procedure or do your own Internet research.
What are the risks involved?
All operations carry some risk. This is why you need to weigh the benefits of the operation against the risks and the side effects, if any.
Complications are possible around the time of the operation, including an infection, too much bleeding, an accidental injury or simply an averse reaction to the meds of the anaesthesia.
In addition, there may be side effects after the operation. For the most part, side effects can be anticipated, and your surgeon can guide you through the minefield of swelling, stiffness, pain or more.
Ask your surgeon about the possible complications and side effects of the operation. There is almost always some pain with surgery. Ask how much there will be and what the doctors and nurses will do to reduce the pain.
How long is the procedure and do I need to stay overnight?
Knowing how long the procedure is, and if you do need to stay overnight, will give you plenty of time to make necessary arrangements to take time off work, and find someone to look after the kids, if need be.
What kind of anaesthesia will be administered?
Anesthesia is used so that surgery can be performed without unnecessary pain. Your surgeon can tell you whether the operation calls for local, regional, or general anaesthesia, and why this form of anesthesia is recommended for your procedure.
Local anaesthesia only numbs a part of your body for a short period, where the surgery will occur. You will be awake during the procedure and there is a possibility you may feel some pain during the operation.
Regional anaesthesia numbs a larger portion of your body, for example, the lower part of your body for a few hours. In most cases, you will stay awake with regional anaesthesia.
General anesthesia numbs your entire body for the entire time of the surgery. Almost all major operations recommend this, as you remain unconscious for the duration when this is administered.
While anaesthesia is generally considered safe, people are known to have reactions to it, which is why usually specialised medical practitioners are allowed to administer it.
Speak to your anaesthesiologist to find out his or her qualifications and the risks involved. Also, don’t forget to discuss any possible allergies you may have, or other medications you may be taking at the time.
What sort of training have you had in such procedures and how many years have you been in the medicine field?
There’s nothing wrong with asking your surgeon about his or her credentials.
Also, do enquire if the hospital is quipped aptly to perform such procedures, and if there are qualified nurses on hand to help during emergencies.
If you are unsure of the qualifications but are happy with the hospital, do inquire if you can bring your own specialist and simply rent out the OR.
Where can I obtain a second opinion?
In the case of non-emergency surgeries, it is common practice for patients to seek out a second opinion from a specialist, to alleviate their fears and that of their loved ones.
Ask your doctor to recommend another specialist, and if you prefer, ask around or do some internet research to find the name of another doctor and get your diagnosis rechecked.
What is the recovery time for such a procedure?
Procedures vary in terms of wound recovery time and length of rehabilitation programmes.
It is very important for patients to know the long-term programme ahead of time for the best planning. Will pain control medications be necessary? How long will it be until you can resume normal functioning?
QUESTIONS TO ASK THE HOSPITAL:
How much does the operation cost and what other surcharges would I have to entail?
Aside from the actual cost of surgery, you may have to incur separate surgeon fees, especially if you have hired a specialist.
Aside from that, your anaesthesia charges, room fees, and other miscellaneous cost can apply.
This would also be a good time to check with your healthcare providers, how much of the procedure would be covered by insurance.
If I need to stay overnight, can a member of the family stay with me? If so, is there an extra cost?
If you are staying overnight at the hospital, aside from the room fees, most of the time you also need to pay separately for a cot if you have a family member or a friend staying with you for the duration.
Does the hospital offer daycare facilities for young infants?
If you just require minor surgery or need to undergo a non-invasive technique, and haven’t been able to secure a babysitter, maybe you can check with your hospital if they provide daycare facilities for young infants — allowing you to fret a little less when being wheeled into the operating room.