Friday, September 24, 2004

Questions for your pre-op appointment

This is a list of basic questions to ask your doctor at pre-op appointments. It may not cover absolutely everything that might be pertinent to your surgery, but it should help you cover the important points. A good way to use this list would be to copy the page, paste it into a word-editing document, add extra lines between the questions, and print it out. Then you can take it to your appointment and write the answers down (or take a mini-recorder and tape them) so you can review them at home, when you have time to think things over. Be sure to jot down any other questions you may think of while reading this, so you remember to ask them, too.

  1. What is the full name of my surgery? (Write this down!) What exactly will you remove: uterus? ovary/ies? cervix?
  2. Will you be combining this with any other procedures? Appendix removal? Bladder repair? Rectocele? Tummy tuck?
  3. How will you remove the organs and where will the incision be? Abdominal (horizontal "bikini"? vertical?)? vaginal? using a laparoscope?
  4. Which things you remove will be going to the lab for pathology tests and when will I get the results? If my surgery is for suspected cancer, how soon will I begin treatments and what will they be?
  5. Should I donate blood before my surgery? If so, when? If not, what if I need a transfusion? If I don’t need a transfusion, is there something else I should do afterwards to build my blood back up?
  6. Right now I am taking (list all of your vitamins, herbs, special dietary practices as well as prescription medications, birth control pills, hrt; if in doubt, list it!). Should I stop them before surgery? If so, when? And when can I go back to taking them after my surgery?
  7. Will I have any special surgical preparation: enema? laxative? douche? Will I be shaved? If so, where and by whom? May I do it myself instead?
  8. What if I have my period when I’m supposed to have my surgery?
  9. I am planning to have my [whatever] pierced or get a tattoo. If I have it done before, how long must it have to heal before the surgery is scheduled? How soon may I have it done afterwards?
  10. May I leave my finger- or toenail-polish and/or artificial nails on when I go to the OR? May I leave my wedding ring on?
  11. What kind of anesthesia will I have? What if I prefer a different kind? Will I meet with my anesthetist before surgery?
  12. How long will my surgery take? Will you report to my family afterwards, while I am still in the Recovery Room? How long will I be in Recovery before I am taken to my room?
  13. How will my pain be managed and what will you be giving me? Will I receive it in the Recovery Room? Do I have to ask before I can have it, or will it be given to me? How often may I repeat it? What if that doesn’t work—will I have another option? How will I get that second option?
  14. What if I become nauseated after surgery? May I have something for this? May I have it before I vomit? in the Recovery Room?
  15. How long will I be on bed rest? When will I get up? How often should I get up?
  16. Will I have a catheter into my bladder? Will I be awake when it is put in? When will it be taken out?
  17. When can I take a shower? When will I be able to bathe? Use my hot tub?
  18. Will I have vaginal bleeding after my surgery? How much and how long?
  19. Will I have on special stockings or pneumatic leggings to prevent clots in my legs after surgery? How long will I have to wear them? Will I be receiving any medication for this purpose? Which one, and how long?
  20. Will I be hooked up with/using any other equipment or special things after surgery? Tummy binder? Breathing exercise devices?
  21. How long will I have an IV after surgery?
  22. What will I be taking for post-op gas and constipation? How long will I need this? If I'm not prescribed something and develop these problems, what do you recommend I take?
  23. If I am having my ovaries removed, when will I start taking hormones and which ones will I take? What is this choice based on? How can I expect them to make me feel? What if I don’t like the way I feel on the first prescription or think I am having a bad reaction?
  24. If I am not having my ovaries removed, how can I tell if they are or are not working post-op? Will I have hot flashes anyway? If my ovaries don’t work right away, what will I experience? How long will I have to experience menopausal symptoms before I can take something to relieve them?
  25. What things have to happen before I will be discharged from the hospital? How long should I expect to be in for?
  26. When will I see you after I leave the hospital? What if something happens or I have questions about how I'm doing before then?
  27. What pain medication and other medications will I go home with? If I run out of pain medication, how do I get more?
  28. What kind of problems should I be watching for at home?
  29. Do I need to have someone stay with me at home after I am released from the hospital? for how long? Should I arrange for another caregiver or board out my kids and/or pets?
  30. What activity restrictions will I have at home? Stairs? Bathing? Driving? Housework including laundry and vacuuming? Lifting how much when? What about my kids or pets—when can I pick them up?
  31. What if I do something and it makes my incision/belly really hurt? Can I hurt myself by doing too much too soon? How will I know?
  32. Will I need to wear a tummy binder or light girdle at home for belly support? If so, for how long?
  33. I am planning to do something special (go to my son’s wedding 2 weeks after surgery—move to a new state a month postop—return to grad school classes of 3 hours a day at about 3 weeks after surgery—take a tropical vacation 2 months after surgery—start paragliding lessons—whatever) in the first 6 months after surgery: is this going to be okay? Should I reschedule it or my surgery to accommodate this plan?
  34. When can I return to my job? (Note: be sure that your doctor knows the exact nature of your work! A work-at-home web designer does not have the same physical demands as a warehouse worker toting hundred-pound sacks of cement mix working a twelve-hour shift.) If I return to work and find it too strenuous, will you authorize an extended leave or a limited return to work?
  35. When may I have sexual intercourse (penetration)? May I engage in other forms of sexual activity (including orgasm) before that time? If so, when?
  36. When may I resume exercising? I normally do for exercise (walk, run, swim, step aerobics, ride horseback, lift weights, bike)—is there any part of that activity I should avoid at first? When and how can I work on regaining tone in my belly? Will you refer me to physical therapy after surgery so that I can work with them on preventing internal scarring and regaining physical conditioning safely (check to be sure your insurance will cover this, but many will if your doctor orders it)? When can I do Kegels again, and should I?
  37. If I have more questions after this appointment, how can I get them answered: email? fax?