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This is the most important question to ask your surgeon, according to Dr. Ian Rice

By Dr. Ian Rice, Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine Orthopaedic Surgeon


Patients naturally have many questions when I counsel them on treatment options and especially when I recommend surgery. Among the most common include:

“Are there any other options I should try before surgery?”

“Where do you perform the surgery?”

“Do I go home the same day?”

“How much pain will have after surgery?”

“Is it a minimally invasive surgery?”

“How long will I be home from work/school?”

“How many of these surgeries have you performed?”

These are good questions about important aspects of surgery. Understanding the logistics of the day of surgery helps alleviate stress and uncertainty prior to the big day. Understanding the recovery afterwards, from medications and wound care to limitations and total recovery, help mentally prepare the patient and ensure the proper social support, including family and friends, are well-positioned for success. But they wouldn’t make my short list for the most important question. Below are what I believe to be the two most important questions:

Runner-up: “What risks of surgery should I be aware of?”

The benefits of surgery often consume much of the time, and both the patient and surgeon want to be positive and optimistic with an emphasis on what can be gained or improved with surgery. There is a natural tendency to focus on the best-case scenario. Even with best-in-class quality flawless technique, complications can and do happen in a very small percentage of cases. While it can be uneasy to discuss for both the surgeon and the patient, it is important to be aware of some of the possible complications. With the safety and quality protocols in place, the meticulous work of the surgeon, and the professionalism of the entire care team from top to bottom at Beacon Orthopaedics, ultimately those very small chance complications should prove to be irrelevant.

Most-Important Question: “If I was a family member or loved one, what would you recommend?”

This question cuts to the heart of decision-making, and it serves as the guiding compass in serving my patients. If this patient sitting before me is my mother, brother, uncle, wife, or child, what would I do? What would I recommend?

When I envision that I am treating my own family member, it helps me be more conscious of cost, the investment of time and energy required out of the recovery, and the incremental benefit of surgery compared to the next best alternative. It also helps me recognize when a patient would benefit from a nudge to overcome their reluctance and pursue surgery, such as when sleep quality is consistently compromised, or when a patient can no longer participate in the sports and active hobbies that make life fun. When the stakes are getting one’s life back, even a major investment of a months-long rehabilitation are worth it.

When I envision I am treating my own family member, I sleep well knowing I am recommending the right treatment for the right reasons, to the extent that technology and current evidence-based medicine will allow.

The next time you or your loved one are considering surgery, ask your surgeon: ““If I was a family member or loved one, what would you recommend?”


Schedule an appointment with Dr. Ian Rice today. Dr. Rice is accepting new patients with no referrals necessary. You can schedule online or call our call center 24/7 at (513) 354-3700 to speak with a live representative.

Beacon Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine +