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Questions to Ask Before Surgery

6 Key Questions to Ask Before Undergoing Surgery, According to a Doctor

We've partnered with Pacira BioSciences, Inc. to help you make informed decisions about your health.

Finding out you need to have surgery can be overwhelming. A million questions might start running through your mind: How much is it going to hurt? Do I need to take time off work? What does this mean for my health?

It's hard to know where to begin, especially if you've never had a major medical procedure before. The first step should be sitting down with your doctor to find out everything you need to know about the surgery, according to Dr. Angela Stoehr, an OB-GYN at Nurture Women's Health in Frisco, Texas, and a paid consultant for Pacira BioSciences, Inc. Read on to find out the top six questions that Dr. Stoehr recommends all patients ask before surgery, from what they need to know about pain management to what to expect throughout the recovery process.

Is This Surgery Truly Necessary?

First and foremost, Dr. Stoehr said patients should ask their doctor if surgery really is the best option. Often, doctors have other treatment options that can minimize the need for surgery, and "if we can keep patients out of the operating room safely and have alternatives, that would be good," she said. Of course, sometimes surgery really is the best option — but asking is the best way to be sure.

What Are the Details of the Procedure?

Once you're certain that surgery is the best treatment, ask your doctor for more details about the procedure. The way the surgery is performed can have a massive impact on your recovery time. For instance, Dr. Stoehr explained that a surgery using tiny incisions and cameras might have a much shorter recovery process than one with a large incision. Even if you don't totally grasp the technical details of the procedure, try to get a general understanding of what the surgeon will be doing.

What Prehab Can I Do Before the Procedure?

In addition to rehabilitation, many doctors also focus on something called prehab, or doing everything you can to be as healthy as possible before surgery. Dr. Stoehr said prehab can include eating a nutritious diet, drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding alcohol, and exercising regularly. "A lot of prehab focuses on core body strength, which can help with the post-operative recovery for abdominal procedures," she said. "Maximizing your health on the front end can minimize the recovery process." As soon as your surgery is scheduled, ask your doctor what specific prehab you can do.

Should I Stop or Change Any of My Medications?

Dr. Stoehr also said it's important to have a conversation with your doctor about any medications you may be taking before surgery. For many procedures, the surgeon will ask you to stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen, and blood thinners, as they can make you bleed more in the operating room. You might also need to stop or change your birth control, since some hormonal birth controls increase the risk of blood clots after a procedure. Tell your doctor about any medications you're taking — over-the-counter and prescription — to ensure they're aware of any potential interactions or side effects.


What Is the Pain Management Plan?

Another important subject to bring up is pain management. Dr. Stoehr recommends that patients ask about the maximal pain levels they should expect after the procedure. If you know what to expect, you'll know to call the surgeon if you're experiencing pain that's more intense.

Patients should also ask their surgeon what their pain management plan is, both during and after the procedure. Dr. Stoehr said most surgeons follow enhanced recovery after surgery protocols, or ERAS protocols, to minimize pain and improve the patient's recovery experience. ERAS protocols start long before surgery, and can include measures like doing prehab exercises and taking acetaminophen two hours before the procedure. ERAS protocols also encourage minimizing opioids during and after surgery, as they can cause side effects like itching, wooziness, nausea, and constipation. "If we can reduce or remove the need for opioids, it really helps with the recovery process," Dr. Stoehr said, as minimizing opioid use helps get patients up and moving around more quickly. According to a recent survey, 94 percent of health care providers agree that non-opioid pain management options can positively impact recovery and the ability to return to normal function following surgery by getting them home from the hospital sooner.

That's one reason to ask your doctor about non-opioid pain management options, like EXPAREL® (bupivacaine liposome injectable suspension). "EXPAREL is a long-acting numbing medication," Dr. Stoehr said. Opting for non-opioid pain medications can help you get home sooner and back to your normal life. Learn more about non-opioid options at

What Will Recovery Be Like?

Lastly, Dr. Stoehr said patients should ask what they can expect during the recovery process. ERAS protocols often come into play in post-operative recovery, as well. Dr. Stoehr said they include everything from getting patients moving around as soon as it's safe to eating well to even going to the bathroom on their own. That's another reason ERAS protocols call for avoiding opioids when possible. Their side effects, including nausea and constipation, often make it more difficult for patients to get up and start moving normally. That goes against most patients' priorities. According to a recent survey, 96 percent of women are motivated to get back to their daily routine after surgery.

Of course, the recovery process will look different for every procedure, so it's important to go into detail with your surgeon about your specific case. Having an open, honest conversation with your doctor ahead of time is the key to making sure you're prepared for surgery, all the way through the recovery process.

EXPAREL is indicated for single-dose infiltration in adults to produce postsurgical local analgesia and as an interscalene brachial plexus nerve block to produce postsurgical regional analgesia. Safety and efficacy have not been established in other nerve blocks.

Important Safety Information

EXPAREL should not be used in obstetrical paracervical block anesthesia.

In studies where EXPAREL was injected into the wound, the most common side effects were nausea, constipation, and vomiting.

In studies where EXPAREL was injected near a nerve, the most common side effects were nausea, fever, and constipation.

EXPAREL is not recommended to be used in patients younger than 18 years old or in pregnant women.

Tell your healthcare provider if you have liver disease, since this may affect how the active ingredient (bupivacaine) in EXPAREL is eliminated from your body.

EXPAREL should not be injected into the spine, joints, or veins.

The active ingredient in EXPAREL:

- Can affect your nervous system and your cardiovascular system

- May cause an allergic reaction

- May cause damage if injected into your joints

- Can cause a rare blood disorder

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