Saturday, December 04, 2004
What's the Matter? Scared of a little SURGERY?
And what I've learned is that doctors and surgeons have uncanny ways of discussing surgery that -- literally -- scare patients into signing the consent form or agreeing to be sliced open. In no particular order, here are some of the one-liners doctors and surgeons will typically use to "convince" patients to undergo surgery for everything from carpal tunnel syndrome to rotator cuff repairs, from spine surgery to arthroscopic knee surgery.
"Well, you may be willing to live with that pain, but I sure wouldn't want to put up with it the rest of my life."
"You can wait, but the longer you wait, the more damage you're risking in that area."
"Your tests clearly show you have (choose one): bulging discs, bone spurs, torn cartilage, nerve damage, herniated discs, bursitis, muscle tears, nerve condition problems." (The problem with those diagnoses is this: how do you know you didn't have those "symptoms" and lived fine with them BEFORE you started feeling pain, and especially before you underwent the tests? Some medical studies show half the population has bulging discs...and no back pain at all. Sometimes, cortisone shots can CAUSE tissue damage that later shows up on MRI scans as "damaged tissue"...and that's a sneaky back-door way for doctors to then convince you to have surgery ("we'll try a few cortisone shots first, and if that doesn't work, then you'll need surgery." Lo and behold, the next sets of tests show...muscle/tissue damage.)
"If you don't have surgery in the next (few days/week/month), you're not going to be able to walk for the rest of your life."
"If you don't have surgery soon, you'll have nerve damage the rest of your life."
"If you don't have surgery soon, you'll lose the use of your hands/wrists/arms/legs, and that's not something I'd risk if I were you."
"You're playing with fire if you don't have surgery in the next few days."
Here's my point: Doctors can say a lot of scary things. Your job, as a patient and potential surgery patient, is to do everything you can to get a second opinion, to learn about alternatives and to question what happens if you DON'T have surgery and try something else instead.
As I say in the book Surgery Sucks!!!!, if the surgeon is a hammer, everything that comes through the door looks like a nail. That's you. It's your decision whether to get whacked -- literally -- or not.