Answering common questions about surgery.
What is included in the term "surgery"?
The term “surgery” covers a wide range of medical procedures, including:
- procedures to repair wounds or broken bones caused by an accident;
- procedures to rectify a life threatening illness, such as removal of an inflamed appendix; biopsies, where a small bit of tissue or fluid is removed for testing to aid in
- determining a diagnosis; and,
- procedures that may improve quality of life, but that do not threaten life if they are not performed, such as cataract surgery or knee replacement.
Why do some people have to wait longer than others?
Emergency surgeries are always done quickly. Since emergencies cannot be planned, scheduled surgeries are sometimes delayed. When you and your surgeon agree that you are going to have surgery, the surgeon puts you on their case list. Some surgeons have more patients waiting for surgery than others.
Patients and physicians, including your family doctor, now have access to information which provides the names of the five surgeons most likely able to perform your surgery sooner than others. Visit our choosing a surgeon section to learn more.
What should I ask my surgeon at my first consultation?
It is important for you to ask whatever questions come to mind, even if they might seem silly. Visit our deciding on surgery section for questions that you may want to ask your surgeon. Jot down any other questions you want to ask so you don’t forget when you are with your surgeon.
Can I get a second opinion?
How do I decide between different surgeons' opinions? Where can I get advice?
Your family doctor knows you best and is in the best position to help you make a decision that is right for you. If you want to do your own research, most Fraser Health hospitals have a library where you can ask for help finding information about your condition and different treatments.
Surgery day and hospitalization
Why are there so many different people involved in my surgery?
There are many team members that you’ll meet and many others that you won’t. Each team member has a specific job to do.
Surgical consent is discussed and completed in the surgeon's office. Your surgical journey starts with seeing the surgeon and you deciding to have surgery.
The Pre-Admission Team contacts you for any appointments with the nurse or anesthetist if needed. You will be given instructions for where to go and how to prepare for the day of surgery.
The day of surgery you will meet the operating room team. For recovering after surgery, you will be cared for by the Post-Anesthetic Care Unit (PACU) nurses, and then cared for by the surgical inpatient team or day care unit team before going home.
Even though we do thousands of surgeries each year, the entire team is very serious about making sure that each and every patient is very well cared for.
Will the surgical team know about my other health issues?
The referral sent from your family doctor to the surgeon will include information about your general health. When you first meet with the surgeon for a consultation, mention your other health issues. If you are asked to attend a Pre-Admission Clinic, the team there will ask you questions and you can also advise them of your other health issues. Don’t be afraid to speak up or ask questions. You are a very important part of the team and any information you have about your health is valuable.
Can I find out before exactly what the surgeon is planning to do, and then what actually was done to my body during surgery?
Yes, and yes. The law requires that the surgeon obtain your informed consent before surgery so that means that they must give you enough information for you to understand what will be done and the risks and benefits. Beyond that, it is up to you to decide how much information you want. If you want to know more, talk to your surgeon.
Going home and after care
How will I get home?
If you had a medication to make you drowsy or to put you to sleep for your surgery, you must go home with someone who is a responsible adult. These drugs can stay in your body for us to 24 hours.
You must tell the nurse when you check-in on surgery day, who is going to help you. Your surgery could be cancelled if you do not have arrangements made because it is not safe for you to travel alone. The person helping you can go in a taxi or on the bus with you, so it’s not necessary for them to have their own car.
If you did not have medication to make you drowsy or make you sleep with a minor surgery or some diagnostic procedures, then you may go home without a responsible adult.
Who will take care of me when I go home?
You will not be sent home until your care team is sure that you will be able to take care of your own basic needs, like going to the washroom. If you require medical care at home, this will be discussed with you before you go home. Ask your surgeon ahead of time, what kind of help you might need after you go home. Ask a family member or friend to check in on you each day, and help you with things like preparing meals.
Am I supposed to make an appointment to see my surgeon after I’m home for a while?
Before you go home, the care team will let you know if you need to see your surgeon again or if you are to go back to see your family doctor.
When will I know if the surgery “worked?”
Ask your surgeon before surgery day what to expect during recovery, and how you will know that you are better.
The surgeon said that I’m going to need rehabilitation. What is that, and how do I arrange it?
Rehabilitation includes a number of different therapies, like physiotherapy and occupational therapy. If your surgeon or family practitioner thinks you need rehabilitation, a referral will be made for you and someone from rehabilitation will contact you. If you have extended health benefits, you can obtain physiotherapy services without a referral.
Family members and friends
If I bring someone in for surgery, can I stay?
It is not necessary for you to stay, but you certainly can if you wish to. Some minor procedures are very quick and don’t require very long in recovery, while others can take several hours. Ask any of the nurses when your family member or friend checks in on surgery day. If you leave, someone will call you when it’s time to come back to take the person home.
What can I do to support someone having surgery if I am asked to help with interpretation?
If you are supporting your family member or friend having surgery as an interpreter, please be available before and after the surgery to help with understanding information. It's good for you to also hear the discharge instructions after surgery. Your family member or friend will not remember all the information after having medications that impair your memory.
Who do I ask about how the surgery went and where my family member/friend is now?
If you are in the waiting area, the surgeon or nurse will come out to tell you how the surgery went or if you leave your phone number, someone will call you.
When can I visit my family member/friend in hospital?
That really depends on the situation, and remember that it is very important for both you and the patient to get plenty of rest. Once the patient has been moved to a unit, talk to the nurse about what would be best.
How do I know who is working with my friend/family member when I come to the hospital each day?
The easiest way is to ask any of the staff members on the unit. There is usually a spot at the nursing station where all of the patients and their nurses are listed, so you can also look there.
Who can I ask about my family member/friend’s status every day?
The best person to ask is the nurse assigned to them. See the question right above.
Can I bring food for my family member/friend?
Usually yes, but ask their nurse first. Some patients need special diets, particularly the first few days after surgery.
How do I get my family member/friend home?
If you do not have your own vehicle, you can take a taxi or bus. The important thing is for your family member/friend to have someone with them – it is not safe for them to travel alone.