(Before It’s Too Late)

By Dr. Willie Ong

Q. I am 70 years old and have a problem with my left hip which is very painful when I walk. I have seen four doctors already in the past three years. Two doctors said I should undergo surgery while the other two said I should wait. What should I do?

A. Since I have not seen all your records, what I can do now is help you make a better decision about the need to undergo surgery or not. Here are some tips patients can follow.

Play an active role in decision making.

Patients now have access to the internet and can help their doctor decide what is best for him or her. Your values and outlook in life often play an important part in choosing surgery or not. It’s your body and it’s your right to decide for yourself.

Is the surgery an emergency or is it elective?

Emergency surgeries leave you little choice to decide and you probably have no time to explore your options. A ruptured appendicitis, a vehicular accident, a dissecting aortic aneurysm all need immediate care. Luckily, this only happens in a few instances. The majority of surgeries are elective, for which we still have time to decide.

Important Rules when undergoing surgery.

Surgery is appropriate because:

(a) to relieve or prevent pain,

(b) to correct a deformity,

(c) to save or prolong a life.

However, even if the surgery is appropriate, there may be other treatment options available which is non-surgical. Ask your doctor about other options, too. If you feel pressured or uncomfortable, then get a second opinion on the matter.

Decide with a calm mind.

With doubt, there arises fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of making the wrong decision and fear of choosing the wrong doctor. Knowing the pros and cons of the operation will help you feel more calm and confident in whatever treatment you decide upon.

Questions to ask your doctor before surgery. List them down.

It’s best to list your questions down before you visit your doctor. Otherwise you might forget about it because you panicked or your doctor is busy. Basic questions to ask are the following:

(a) What is surgery means?

(b) What’s the reason for the surgery?

(c) What results can I expect after undergoing this procedure?

(d) The risks involved. And how often do they occur?

(e) How much time do I need before I can go back to work?

(f) How much money should I prepare, for the hospital bill and your

professional fee?

(g) Are there cheaper options available for me? What if I get a

semi-private room or stay in the wards?

(h) Will it covered by my health card?

When to ask for a second opinion.

You might feel uncomfortable asking for a second opinion but that is within your right. A doctor who gets angry or refuses to cooperate with you (not allowing you to photocopy your laboratory results) may not be the best doctor for you. To get around this problem, always (I mean always) have an extra copy of all your lab tests. File it in a folder. Don’t allow your doctor to keep your only copy. 

There are some instances when it’s wise to seek a second opinion: (a) The surgery is risky or considered experimental; (b) Your symptoms are not severe and the outcome of the surgery is not clearly beneficial; (c) There’s controversy about the need for the procedure, for example, tonsillectomy, hysterectomy, Caesarian section, coronary bypass, balloon angioplasty, orthopedic surgery, gallbladder removal, and of course plastic surgery.

There are doctors on the conservative side (no surgery) while others are on the aggressive side (early surgery). Both doctors are still correct within the bounds of acceptable practice. You might find that one doctor’s philosophy may be more in line with your own values.

Pray that you find the right doctor.

Some people might frown upon this suggestion but really there’s a lot of luck involved also. Prayers and a positive attitude help the patient find the right doctor. How else can we explain seeing one doctor instead of another? It’s usually a referral from a friend.

Find a few doctors whom you can trust. Doctors who’ll give you the leeway to be yourself, to listen to all your crazy questions and who will only have your best interests at heart. Find a few and stick to them for life.

Related Posts