Is surgery right for you?

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Every year, more than 15 million Americans have surgery. Most operations are not emergencies — they’re considered elective surgery. This means that you usually have time to plan ahead and learn about your procedure.

Understanding your operation can increase your comfort level before, during, and after surgery, and will help your recovery.

Make an informed decision

Sometimes it's clear that surgery is your best — or only — treatment option. Other times, it’s one of several answers to a medical problem. When the choice to have surgery is not clear, informed decisions are especially important.

Ask your doctor these questions:

  • Are there other treatments I could try first?
  • Will surgery really help me, and if so, for how long?
  • How long will it take to recover?
  • How much time off will I have to take?
  • What are the possible risks, complications, and side effects?
  • What happens if I don't have surgery now?

Still undecided? Use our decision points to get additional facts and understand the benefits and risks of surgery. This information will help you discuss the pros and cons of surgery with your doctor.

Getting a second opinion

To fully understand and be comfortable with your upcoming surgery, write down any questions ahead of time and ask them all. Make sure you understand the answers. Don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation.

If you still feel unsure about surgery, a second opinion may help. Your doctor can recommend another specialist or surgeon.

Reviewed by: Margaret Mentakis, MD, April 2016
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2016 Kaiser Permanente

Surgery and your safety

Learn about the steps you and your surgery team will take to ensure your safety.

After your surgery

You’ll find patient instructions to help you have a safer and more comfortable recovery.

Find online communities and support groups to help you cope with challenges.

When a child needs surgery

Children needing surgery want comfort and answers. Learn how to get your child prepared for surgery.