So You Need Surgery – The Hospital Screening

Be Prepared for Lots of Questions

Before surgeries, I am always asked to go into the hospital for a pre-operative interview.  This meeting is often done in multiple parts and can take several hours.  Depending on the hospital, you may not see anyone from your medical team at this time; sometimes the pre-op team is dedicated to these meetings.

My best experience was one of my knee surgeries. The entire process was handled by one person. She was a former OR nurse who did OR prep interviews all day. She had a good sense of humor and we quickly developed a rapport that made the 2 hours fly by. I had to fill out a dozen pages of paperwork, I had blood tests and an ECG (heart test). She weighed me, measured my height and informed me on the evils of smoking and anesthetic. (This was obviously before I quit.) And mid-way we went out for a smoke break, which made me laugh.

Although every hospital handles this process differently; the basics are generally the same. It will usually start with a complete medical history. I always come prepared with previous doctors’ names and addresses and dates and locations of past procedures and surgeries. I also bring a list of all the vitamins and medications I am taking. My history is so long and colorful, I forget things otherwise. I’ve started one of these for my daughter now too. I got glared at for forgetting something on her history last time we were in emergency; I won’t make that mistake again. It also saves me a lot of time. They usually make me rewrite everything, but sometimes they just staple it to their form and I’m done. Yay!

And A Few Pre-Op Tests

It will also involve some pre-op tests, blood tests, ECGs, and the like.  The results of these tests will tell the team whether you are all clear or whether some special measures need to be taken. You will also be asked a number of lifestyle questions about drinking, smoking, diet, etc…  It is critical that you answer these questions honestly; a number of issues can affect your anesthesia and lies can endanger your health and/or the success of your surgery.

My dad has a weak heart, so nobody thought he could have hip replacement surgery, but his surgeon was fine with it once he had all the information. He had consults with specialists and they worked up a plan to use anesthetics and treatments that would decrease the risks. He had to stay in the ICU for 5 days following each surgery, but they monitored him closely and he was fine. All of his regular medications had to be altered for a bit and he had to keep an eye on certain things, but now he is a lot happier. If he had held back any information, it could have been really dangerous.

Check Your Insurance Coverage

Depending on the hospital’s procedure you may be asked about accommodations in your pre-op interview.  Before any medical procedure, it is always a good idea to check your medical insurance. Familiarize yourself with your coverage, so you know what type of room you can afford, what procedures are covered and what your out-of-pocket expenses will be. You will be given many treatment options throughout the process and not all of them are covered by public health care or private insurance. You may choose options to cut costs, or to increase comfort and convenience, based on your means.

  • Private and semi-private rooms are much more expensive than wards, but bring more privacy and quiet.
  • Some drug choices are more expensive, but more convenient or more effective; your drug coverage may drive the decisions your doctor makes if you keep them informed.

I have only qualified for a private room once and my insurance didn’t cover it. It turned into a huge ordeal because it hadn’t been clearly communicated between my doctors and the administration. The doctor had requested I have a private room, due to special needs after the birth of my daughter, so it wouldn’t cost me. The administrators kept sending me bills for thousands of dollars, saying it wasn’t up to the doctors. It was horrible. I finally took the bill in to my doctor and he said he would fix it, and he did. Never again will I assume. I will check it all out ahead of time.

Ask lots of questions

Some hospitals have an orientation for patients.  These are wonderful when they are available; you benefit from an information session and an opportunity to ask your own questions, but also to hear the questions others have thought about.  If your hospital does not do these orientation sessions, you should still take advantage of the opportunity to ask the staff any questions you have.

Check out my sample questions for the hospital staff: Preoperative FAQs – Hospital


Read the previous post in this series: So You Need Surgery – Meeting the Surgeon
Read the next post in this series: So You Need Surgery – Preparing Yourself