5 Things to Know Before Surgery
Learning you need surgery can be both frightening and unsettling. It requires an act of trust in the team of people committed to using the most advanced technology, understanding and skill to take care of you.
Being well-informed about your options, your surgeon and the hospital’s capabilities can greatly boost your confidence and comfort level. For example, new techniques and surgical options are continually emerging. For many procedures, robotic-assisted surgery has become a more precise, less invasive way to work on the heart, repair hernias, remove a cancerous prostate or perform a hysterectomy. It takes surgical expertise and a careful evaluation of your particular situation to accurately assess whether new technologies such as these are appropriate for you.
“As we evaluate people for surgery, we want to apply the least invasive treatment that will produce the most effective results,” explains Surgeon Thomas Maynard, MD. “At the end of the day, it’s all about finding the best level of care for our patients.”
If the surgery isn’t an emergency, you’ll have a window of time to learn and investigate what’s best for you. Here are five things to do while considering surgery:
1. Know your options. Once you meet your surgeon, ask about the full range of techniques and options available for your surgery and whether the surgeon offers all of those options. Does the surgeon perform robotic-assisted surgery or other minimally invasive techniques? Ask for a full explanation of the pros and cons of each of those options, including surgical risk, recovery time and success rates.
2. Rely on your connections. Most people don’t refer themselves for surgery. A skilled, experienced medical team has made a diagnosis that points to the need for surgery. After examining you and performing tests, your primary care physician, emergency physician, hospitalist or specialist such as an oncologist wants to connect you to the best possible person to perform your surgery. Carefully consider their recommendations. If there’s more than one choice, ask family, friends and co-workers about their experiences. Do an online search for information about your surgeon and your condition, the proposed procedure and any new advances in treatments, using reputable hospital-based or government-based resources.
3. Get to know your doctor. Establishing a rapport with your doctor is important to your overall experience before, during and after surgery. Working with someone who cares about you as a person and has your highest good in mind goes a long way to helping you relax. Studies have shown that there’s a strong association between a patient’s agreement with the doctor’s treatment plan and that patient’s ability to recover.
4. Get to know your doctor’s surgical skills. As medical procedures become more sophisticated and technical, doctors often subspecialize to focus on a particular organ or area: prostate surgery, pancreatic surgery, pelvic floor surgery, for example. Check out your surgeon’s bio or website to learn about his specialties. Ask him about his experience and training with the proposed procedure. Has the training and volume of procedures led to fewer complications and better results for his patients?
5. If you’re still unsure, get a second opinion. Not every patient-physician relationship is a perfect match. If you feel you need another perspective on your condition and options for treatment, it’s your right as a patient to talk to another surgeon. If a second opinion confirms what your first doctor says, you’ll have added confidence and can choose the doctor who makes you feel most comfortable.
“Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion,” says TriHealth’s Dr. Maynard. “It’s a fairly routine practice and learning more about your options can bring you peace of mind.”
From Troubling Diagnosis to Complete Recovery
To illustrate that point, in 2015, Cincinnati resident Matt Tomaszewski came to a local hospital with unusual abdominal pain. After examinations and testing, doctors concluded he needed complex surgery called a Whipple procedure to remove painful – and potentially cancerous - pancreatic cysts from his pancreas. The surgeon offered an open surgical procedure that would require an extended recovery.
Upon further consideration of this recommendation, Matt sought a second opinion from TriHealth pancreatic surgeon Dr. Maynard, who offers a full spectrum of surgical options, including robotic-assisted surgery. Armed with information from Dr. Maynard and from extensive research on the physicians, the hospitals and the procedures, Matt became convinced that having robotic surgery with Dr. Maynard at TriHealth was the best place in the world for him to be. It proved to be the best decision for Matt, both physically and personally.
The range of recovery for a Whipple procedure is between six and 16 weeks. Matt relates, “I recovered in six weeks, was back to work in seven weeks, and my wife and I took a trip to Europe at eight weeks.”
“It really helped my recovery to have support close to home rather than somewhere else with just one or two family members,” Matt says. “Dr. Maynard was exceptionally supportive and comforting in my recovery.” And of the surgical expertise and technical resources available that provided him all the options and personalized plan for his best outcome, Matt testifies, “We are lucky in this region to have that kind of capability.”
You can read more about what types of robotic-assisted procedures TriHealth provides at trihealth.com/robotics.
TriHealth provides a wide range of clinical, educational, preventive and social programs at more than 130 care sites. TriHealth's non-hospital services include physician practice management, fitness centers and fitness center management, occupational health centers, home health and hospice care.
Last Updated: June 22, 2017