Saturday, April 14, 2007

Episode 16: Questions you should ask

Here's Episode 16. We start with some letters from the Listenership, then take a quick trip to the newswires, where we check on the medical accuracy and completeness of recent stories about Tony Snow's cancer diagnosis and Jon Corzine's car accident. Then, at long last, we arrive at the stated topic: questions you should ask your surgeon before having an operation, and things you can do in the hospital to be sure that you're getting all the treatment that you should.

Of course, I'm not your doctor, and you should take my medical advice the way you take any advice from a complete stranger who won't tell you his name...

For convenient reference, I'll put the main points here:

1. Be sure your attending is going to be in town while you're recovering, not heading to the airport from your operating room.

2. Is your attending surgeon going to see you every day while you're in the hospital? I used to take that for granted. No longer.

3. What's the patient to staff ratio going to be? If you're going to be in ICU, will you have 1:1 nursing, or at least 1:2 nursing? And what sort of physician coverage is going to be present at night and on the weekends? Will there always be a senior-level doctor in house, or are the interns sometimes left to their own devices?

4. How many cases like yours has your attending done - AS AN ATTENDING?

5. When you get to the hospital, ask about the following...and keep asking:
a. Prophylaxis against Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT)
b. Peri-operative antibiotics
c. Beta-blockers (not everybody needs them, but be sure your team is thinking about it)

Hope this proves a useful reference. If you have things that you think should be added to this list, please, let us know!!

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