What to Ask When You Need Surgery

Surgical procedures are common, but can also be a source of fear and anxiety. You can help reduce these feelings by becoming an informed patient. It all starts by asking the right questions.

Tips for Gathering Information

It is important to talk to your surgeon about your upcoming surgery. By talking openly with your surgeon, you can take an active role in your care.

Here are some tips that will make it easier to talk to your surgeon:

  • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
  • Write out your questions ahead of time, so you do not forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get and make sure you understand what you have heard. Ask for clarification if needed.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.

Specific Questions to Ask

Consider asking the following questions about your surgery:

  • What is the surgery called and how is it done?
  • Why do I need this surgery?
  • Are there other treatment options to this surgery that may be right for me?
  • What are the risks, benefits, and complications of this surgery?
  • What will happen if I choose not to have this surgery?
  • How often have you performed this surgery?
  • What can I expect before surgery?
  • Will my other medical conditions and treatments affect the surgery?
  • Where will the surgery be done?
  • What are my anesthesia options?
  • What will the recovery process be like?
  • How much pain will I have and how will it be treated?
  • Should I get a second opinion?
  • How much does the surgery cost and is it covered by my insurance?

Gathering the answers to these questions will help you make the best decisions about your health and whether the surgery you are considering is right for you.


American College of Surgeons
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians


Canadian Association of General Surgeons


10 questions to ask before having surgery. American College of Surgeons website. Available at: https://www.facs.org/education/patient-education/patient-resources/prepare/10-questions. Accessed October 10, 2016.
Questions to ask before surgery. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at:
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Accessed October 10, 2016.
Questions to ask your doctor before surgery. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at:
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Updated October 2013. Accessed October 10, 2016.
Last reviewed June 2017 by Donald W. Buck II, MD

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