Doctor, should I have surgery?
At least once a week a patient asks me the question “Doctor should I undergo this surgery?” Early in my career I found this a hard question to answer.
Over the years I have developed a strategy for answering this question, which I believe, helps patients figure out their own way, rather than using my opinion to reach a decision. I will paraphrase what I usually say here:
“If the problem that brought you in to see me infrequently bothers you and does not take up a great deal of your psyche, then you should probably not have the surgery. Surgery has risks and there is no need to put one’s self in harms way for something that hardly bothers you. If the problem bothers you regularly and often, then you should consider having surgery once you have taken into account the potential risks and found them reasonable.”
In my career, since I started using this approach, patients seem to have a much easier time reaching a decision about surgery. I believe it both empowers them to make the correct decision and gives them a rather concrete way of approaching the problem.