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from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

Diseases & Conditions



Staying Healthy

Questions to Ask Your Doctor Before Surgery

The goal of orthopaedic treatment is to relieve pain and restore function. In planning your treatment, your doctor will consider many things, including your age, activity level, and general health. If nonsurgical treatment methods, such as medication and physical therapy, do not relieve your symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery.

Communication Is Key

Your doctor and healthcare team will provide you with information to help you prepare for surgery. Never hesitate to ask questions. The following list of questions can help you in your discussions with your doctor before your surgery.

  1. Why is this procedure being recommended? Are there alternatives?
  2. What are the benefits of this procedure in terms of pain relief, functioning/mobility? How long will the benefit last?
  3. What are the potential complications?
  4. What can I do to decrease my risk for complications?
  5. What is the success rate for this procedure?
  6. What is the procedure called? How is it done?
  7. Will this surgery solve the problem? Will any more surgery be required in the future?
  8. How many of these procedures are annually performed at this hospital?
  9. What percentage of patients improve following the procedure?
  10. What will happen if I don't have the surgery now?
  11. If I want a second opinion, whom can I consult?
  12. Will I need any tests or medical evaluations prior to the surgery?
  13. What kind of anesthesia will be used? Are there possible after effects or risks? Will I meet with the anesthesiologist in advance? Will her or she know my needs/allergies?
  14. What kind of implant or prosthesis will be used? What are the outcomes using this device? How long will it last?
  15. Will I have pain following the procedure? What pain relief or pain control measures will I be given?
  16. How long will the recovery take? What are my limitations during recovery? Will I need assistance at home afterwards? For how long? What will discharge instructions be?
  17. Will I have any disability following surgery? Will I need physical therapy?
  18. When can I return to work? When can I drive my car? When can I resume sexual activity?
  19. Are there any materials about this surgery that I can review?

As the patient, you should request and/or confirm that your surgeon will preoperatively confirm and mark the surgical site.

Last Reviewed

March 2019

AAOS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, or locate one in your area through the AAOS Find an Orthopaedist program on this website.