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If your doctor has recommended surgery, it’s important to do your homework. The more information you have, the better prepared you’ll be to make decisions about your health care—and the more relaxed and confident you’ll be on the day of surgery.

Following are some questions to ask your doctor, based on checklists from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Patient Education Institute.

  • How will surgery benefit me? Before your operation , make sure you have a realistic understanding of the benefits and how long the results will last.
  • What risks are associated with this procedure? Every procedure has some risks, and if you have other medical conditions, you may be more likely than others to have complications from surgery.
  • What will happen if I don’t have surgery? If you forgo the recommended procedure, will your condition get worse? Might it resolve itself?
  • Are there any alternatives to surgery? If there are alternative treatments, find out why surgery is being recommended in your case.
  • Should I get a second opinion? It’s always a good idea to get a second opinion, especially when surgery is recommended.
  • How will the procedure be performed? Get a clear explanation and, if necessary, ask your doctor to draw you a diagram.
  • Is there anything I should do to prepare for my procedure? There may be steps you can take to ensure the best outcome. If you smoke, for example, stopping two weeks before surgery can help speed your recovery. If there’s a risk of substantial blood loss, you may be able to store some of your own blood for transfusion.
  • Will I need to stay in the hospital after surgery? For some surgeries, especially minimally invasive procedures, you can arrive and return home the same day. Other procedures require that you remain in the hospital for one day or more.