Surgery can be a scary prospect, especially when the surgery in question is elective, designed to improve your quality of life. When it’s necessary, a lot of questions become moot. There’s a lot to consider when making the decision. For elective surgeries, however, it’s a balancing act of the pros versus cons. The best way to minimize the cons is by being proactive in consulting resources that will help you navigate through the tougher aspects of surgery. The question is, then, which resources should patients consult?
Factoring the Risks
Every surgery comes with risks: It’s why hospitals have us read through those terrifying potential complication lists. No matter the surgery — even something as small as a rhinoplasty or septoplasty — comes with complications (especially anything with anesthesia involved). Complications can range from the simple (discomfort) to the worst case scenario (death). To figure out if the benefits outweigh the risks, some people turn to a risk calculator. A risk calculator takes into account a lot of factors about the patient (general health, weight, age) and the surgery (hospital-generated information about the procedure) and computes the likelihood of complications.
The kind of information a risk calculator looks at to determine the level of risk can be general health information, like the presence of chronic illness like diabetes and hypertension, to more severe health conditions like ventilator dependence and sepsis. Medications, like steroids, can affect the risk rate, as well as BMI.
Some sites can even offer a comparison of your risks versus average patient risks, which can help a patient determine if they are more or less fit for the procedure than what surgeons generally work with.
One of the first big questions when it comes to health care is expense. Healthcare has become more and more expensive throughout recent years, and for most families elective surgery constitutes a major expense. The first thing to check is how much of the surgery your insurance will cover, if any. Outside of insurance (or the costs outside of insurance, such as deductibles or costs over coverage), costs can be handled in a few ways. The easiest is to pay those out-of pocket-costs is from savings.
If you’re unable to do that, the next step is to look for a loan. The process for loans can be confusing to navigate. Fortunately, many medical facilities offer a guide to determine the kind of loan that is right for you. Loans vary based on interest rates, payment schedules, and qualifying factors on the elective nature of the surgery (cosmetic surgeries, for example, might have fewer options than elective surgeries designed to increase quality of life). It’s important to be thorough in your research when choosing the kind of loan that is right for you, and to determine whether the costs with financing justify the quality of life improvements the elective surgery will bring.
When you’re going over all the financials, make sure to be as thorough as possible. Ask questions like:
- Are all the doctors involved in network?
- Is the facility in network?
- Did your insurance pre-approve surgery?
- What kind of potential complications could arise, and what are the financial ramifications of them?
- Is a deductible due before surgery?
- Do any of the affiliated technicians, like anesthesiologists, require payment before surgery?
- Will there be future costs associated with this surgery?
- Are the effects long-term or short-term?
- What will the cost of follow-up appointments look like?
- Are there medications associated with recovery, and how much will they cost?How much of the medication does insurance cover?
- Does the recovery period have any other associated costs, like home care or extended time off work?
A surprise medical bill that far outpaces your budget can have catastrophic results on your financial planning.
Managing Stress and Anxiety
Surgery is scary! There are no definite promises, and there’s always the risk of complications. Before going into surgery it’s important to manage stress. Stress can create physical symptoms in patients such as pain in the chest, stomach, and head. It’s important to go into surgery as prepared and healthy as possible to minimize risks.
There are a handful of helpful people and places to consult for help with stress management. It’s definitely okay to mention your anxiety to your doctor or surgeon. Chances are, they’ve seen it before and have tools at hand to help you out, whether it’s guiding you through anxiety-management techniques (like breathing exercises, or guided imagery). If your doctor is unable to help, they can probably refer you to a good source of anxiety management, such as a psychiatrist. On the day of surgery, if you still struggle, talk to your anesthesiologist to see if they can help via sedatives.
The more you plan and prepare for surgery, the more relaxed and comfortable you’ll be going into the procedure, as well as with the outcome.