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Safety Tips: Understand Your Tests, Procedures, and Surgery

When the doctor says you need a test, procedure, or surgery, you need to understand exactly what will be done and what to expect. Here are some guidelines to help you get the information you need.

  • Ask your doctor to explain the test, procedure, or surgery. Make sure you understand the reason you need it.
  • IIf you don’t understand what your doctor says, ask more questions.
  • Before you talk with your doctor, write down a list of questions to ask.
  • If you have a living will and power of attorney, take the information to your doctor visit. These papers are also called advance directives. If you do not have advance directives, your doctor will provide information to help you make your decision.
  • Your doctor can help you choose a hospital. He or she can refer you to a place where many patients have had the same test, procedure, or surgery that you need.
  • Remember that the purpose of tests and procedures is to help the doctor understand your condition and offer better medical care. However, you have a right to refuse any test, procedure, or surgery.
  • If you have a question about your test, procedure, or surgery, call the doctor’s office that ordered it.
  • Ask your doctor to explain the benefits and risks of any test, procedure, and surgery. Make sure you understand.
  • Find out when your test results will be ready. If you don’t hear from your doctor by that time, call the doctor’s office and ask for the results. Ask what the results mean for your condition.
  • If you are having surgery, make sure your doctor explains it clearly. Before you read and sign the consent form, it is important for you and your caregiver to know exactly what will be done.

To make leaving the hospital and going home easier, think ahead about the following:

  • Do you have a ride?
  • Do you have prescriptions for your medicine and supplies from the pharmacy?
  • Do you have groceries? 
  • What are you allowed to do at home?
  • Will you need help at home? For example, will you need home care?
  • Are you permitted to drive?
  • Do you have phone numbers for your doctor, hospital, and emergency in a handy place?
  • When should you see the doctor for a follow-up appointment?

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For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

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Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

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