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Agency for Healthcare Research Quality

Having Surgery?

What You Need to Know

Questions to Ask Your Doctor and Your Surgeon

Having Surgery? What You Need to Know is for patients who are facing surgery that is not an emergency. Some of the questions in this document may help you and your family understand more about your surgery, whether it has to be done right away or can be done later. Your doctor or nurse also can help you understand what is being done and why. Don't be afraid to ask questions!

To obtain print copies of Having Surgery? What You Need to Know, call the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse at 1-800-358-9295 or send an E-mail to

To download the print version, go to the PDF File (490 KB). PDF Help.

Care About Your Health

Help Make the Decisions

Are you facing surgery? You are not alone. Every year, more than 15 million Americans have surgery.

Most operations are not emergencies and are considered elective surgery. This means that you have time to learn about your operation to be sure it is the best treatment for you. You also have time to work with your surgeon to make the surgery as safe as possible. Be active in your health care to have quality care.

Your regular doctor is your primary care doctor. He or she may be the doctor who suggests that you have surgery and may refer you to a surgeon. You may also want to find another surgeon to get a second opinion, to confirm if surgery is the right treatment for you. You might want to ask friends or coworkers for the names of surgeons they have used.

This document gives you some questions to ask your primary care doctor and surgeon before you have surgery. It also gives the reasons for asking these questions. The answers will help you make the best decisions. Select for tips about where you can get more information on surgery.

Your doctors should welcome questions. If you do not understand the answers, ask the doctor to explain them clearly. Bring a friend or relative along to help you talk with the doctor. Research shows that patients who are well informed about their treatment are more satisfied with their results.

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