How do you know what type of surgery is right for you?
Well, I can’t answer that question; “I’m an engineer, not a medical doctor!” (Star Trek reference for my fellow engineering nerds. ha!)
Please note: all articles are written on SimpleStepsForLivingLife are ONLY my opinions and should NEVER replace that of a medical professional. This series of posts are about what I have learned from having surgery and being about to have surgery again. I am not a medical professional at all, please consult with your doctor or a medical professional when it comes to anything to do with your health.
If you are reading this article, let me guess that you are not a doctor either. So truly knowing what is the best surgery for what ailment you are facing is best left up to the professionals. Your doctor has been trained for years and years and years and should obviously decide how the surgery procedure should be done. With that said, it is still a good idea to research options before going under the knife so you will be informed regarding your health decisions.
This post is part of a 31 day writing challenge, and the theme for SimpleStepsForLivingLife’s daily series is Prepping for Surgery. Before you can even prepare for surgery you need to research if different options are available. There are so many different reasons why people face surgery… emergency appendix removal, knee replacement, herniated disc, herniated abdomen, broken bone, heart surgery, thyroid surgery, and even plastic surgery. The gamut of possibilities is endless!
But the main idea for researching each potential procedure can be generalized easily.
In 5 short weeks, I’ll be having elective surgery to repair severe muscle separation in my abdomen, one known hernia (probably at least one more), tummy tuck, and lifting the girls back into place. Last year, during the beginning of December, I had surgery to repair a herniated disc in my back. Both of these surgeries are similar in that they involve the trunk of my body and are necessary for my health. Both of these surgeries are different in that one is elective and the other is not, the plastic surgery part of the upcoming surgery is not necessary for my health, and insurance is paying nothing on the second surgery even though I have severe muscle separation and a hernia and I’m pretty sure these are two contributing factors as to why I needed back surgery.
There are so many potentially different surgeries but the way to go about researching them can include:
1. INTERNET SEARCHES. Ok, I bet there might be a doctor out there cringing right now reading this one. But let’s face it doctors don’t have time to give each patient a 3 day seminar explaining every single precise thing they and their surgery team are going to be doing during the procedure. Plus, only you know what level of detail you want to know for your surgery. For me it means watching a video of the actual type of surgery I’ll be having; for you that might just reading up on the pros and cons. For whatever is your ailment, I suggest searching on google.com using a phrase like (your ailment) surgery and then search (your ailment) surgery alternative. I have a friend who is terrified to be even driving next to a hospital so instead of having the suggested surgery for her knee, she has researched and spoken with her physician regarding physical therapy alternatives that can be tried first. If that approach doesn’t work, then surgery will most likely happen next, but researching information regarding this helped her make an informed decision alongside her doctor.
2. SEEK A SECOND OPINION IF YOU ARE NOT COMFORTABLE WITH YOUR INITIAL DOCTOR. For my back surgery last year, I interviewed two different physicians at the suggestion of an acquaintance that is a physical therapist. I was actually comfortable with the initial surgeon but ended up picking the latter. The first doctor’s approach to being able to reach the herniated disc would have been a little more risky and possibly involved some bone removal. Plus, my estimated recovery time would have been increased because of the technique he preferred. Don’t worry about hurting the physician’s feelings that you desire more than one set of eyes studying your problem. They most likely will understand; this is your health and you need to make informed decisions. I’m so glad I interviewed and researched two doctors as it turns out the doctor I chose had a higher rate of success and I added to that statistic.
3. UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO SURGERY COULD TRANSLATE TO DIFFERENT LENGTHS OF RECOVERY TIME. Like the example above, recovery time can increase drastically if the surgery could be minimally invasive verses being opened up. If I choose the hernia repair only, I probably could go with the laparoscopic surgery. Because my muscles are going to be stitched back in place and I’m including a tummy tuck, the initial recovery time goes from estimated 4 days to over 6 weeks
4. FIND AND ASK OTHER PEOPLE ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES THAT HAVE HAD THE SAME SURGERY. The amount of information on the internet is amazing and it just amazes me how we can connect across a continent, even the world. More than likely you are not the first person to have the procedure that you are facing. There are some great websites for patient testimonials and patient journals regarding specific surgeries. I have been researching my up-and-coming tummy tuck for over 3 years on the website RealSelf.com. (In some ways it’s ironic that site dedicated to plastic surgery would be called RealSelf.) Not only have I learned about the necessary steps to get ready for this specific surgery, how it is performed, recovery time, but also have read journals regarding the potential emotional ramifications, the different outcomes for different approaches to the surgery, potential problems that have arisen for different people, and the supportive community within a common surgical link. Search google.com with the phrase (your surgery) support forum or (your surgery) reviews.
5. CALL YOUR INSURANCE PROVIDER. You need to make sure that the type of procedure being done is covered and what it will cost you out of pocket. You can start planning in advance how to budget in the payments for your surgery or start saving before even having the procedure. Also some insurance companies provide a health line available where you can talk with a nurse. This is a potentially great resource as you can ask another medical opinion regarding your surgery options.
Other ways to research the different ways a surgery could be performed include searching for books on the subject, calling the hospital that will be used for the procedure, and asking your doctor for more information. The most helpful way I have researched both of my surgeries was simply asking people about it or reading about their journey through the surgery. For my back surgery, doing a little research from the internet and asking specific questions of each doctor gave me the information I needed for an informed decision. For my upcoming plastic surgery, using the website RealSelf to read about hundreds of different women’s journeys has given me a wealth of knowledge of what to expect from the surgery and the importance of certain steps that I would like the doctor to take with my particular surgery(this has also helped me narrow down when surgery I picked).
The most important thing to remember when seeking information regarding your surgery is to research it as much as possible. It is up to you to be in control of your health and learn about options available.
For more helpful Prepping for Surgery series articles, click here. For a FREE printable of questions to ask during your preOperation appointment, please leave your email address in the box below.