Surgery Resources and Frequently Asked Questions 

Surgery can be an intimidating, confusing experience—but it doesn't have to be. Your doctor and care team are available to answer any of your questions and address all of your concerns.

Questions you may want to ask during your initial consultation include:

  • How will the surgery improve my health or quality of life?
  • Are there any alternative forms of treatment or less-invasive procedures available?
  • Will hospitalization be necessary? If so, for how long?
  • What kind of assistance will I need with my daily activities when I go home?
  • Will I need physical therapy, occupational therapy or home health services?

Advice From a Surgeon

All answers from Surgeon H. Clark Federer, M.D.

Q: What can people do before surgery to feel less anxious?

The patient needs to trust the physicians. Communication is key. The best thing you can do is to sit down with your surgeon, prepared with a list of questions and concerns. Give a great deal of thought beforehand to what you want and need to know, and then ask everything.

Q: How safe is anesthesia?

According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, complications from anesthesiology have declined dramatically over the past 25 years. In the last decade, the number of anesthesia-related deaths has decreased from one in 10,000 to one in 250,000. To put that number into perspective, you are far more likely to be struck by lightning.

The advent of the pulse oxygenation monitor, which measures the amount of oxygen in the blood, was a huge advance in safety. Now, if a patient's blood oxygen level drops, we know it immediately and can deal with it on the spot. Anesthesiologists at Swedish Hospital use new brain wave technology to monitor the depth of anesthesia. This can be reassuring to patients who are afraid they'll get too much—or not enough—anesthesia.

Q: What can be done to minimize pain?

There will always be some pain after surgery. But many of the new minimally invasive surgeries result in less pain due to smaller incisions and new pain management techniques that use local anesthesia along with general anesthesia. We put a long-acting local anesthetic agent directly into the wound, which numbs the area for several hours and reduces the need for narcotics, which can cause nausea, vomiting and constipation. 

For example, people often complain of shoulder pain after abdominal surgery. This is actually referred pain from the diaphragm, which has been pressed by the carbon dioxide we use to inflate the abdomen. By injecting local anesthesia into the abdomen, shoulder pain is greatly reduced.

Q: What about complications after surgery?

After surgery, it's very important to get up and moving as soon as possible. The less pain you're in, the more you are willing to move, and the more you move, the less apt you are to develop pneumonia or other complications. 

In the vast majority of cases, the benefits of having surgery far outweigh the risks. People often tell me that the surgery was smoother and less painful than they had anticipated. They'll say, "I'm so glad I finally did this. Why did I put it off for so long?"

Contact Us

To schedule an appointment, please call 773-878-6888.

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