What to ask at a pre-op (removing one kidney)?

My cousin (male, lives alone on ranch), is told he needs a kidney removed. He is not skilled in communicating with hurried medical professionals. I want to go with him to the pre-op, but I’d like to be better informed as to what are good questions.

Detail: One kidney has a mass. No biopsy has been done. Hospital to be Dominican in Santa Cruz (anecdotal: their bureaucracy is marginal in function).

Do we ask how many of this type operation this surgeon has done? If the answer is one, what do we do next?

I think we ask about post-op requirements at home.

How do we find out the costs (he has Blue Cross I think). In other words, you ask the doc and he says, “It costs $X,000”, but it turns that’s just for the doc, and the surgeon is $Y,000, and the hospital stay is $Z,000, and the kleenexes provided at bedside are $27, and and the pharmacy fee is $W00, and each med is $V00, and what else is there?

For the part not covered by insurance, can one negotiate, and how? (I’m not skilled at negotiating either.)

What do we ask the insurance company?
What do we ask the hospital?
What large gaps am I missing so far?

Oh, and what do we say to each of these?

How do we make sure they take out the correct one? There’s the probable urban legend of a little girl who had to have a leg amputated, and when they wheeled her into the operating room and pulled up the sheet, she had “Not this one, dummy” written on the other leg…

Good questions would be:
“why does my kidney need to come out”
“how do you know that”
“What exactly are you proposing to do and what are the risks and benefits of doing it”
“what the the alternatives to your proposal, along with the risks and benefits of doing those instead”
“what are the risks and benefits of doing nothing”
“how many have you done”
“Are you Board certified by the American Board of Urology”

I’d establish the reason for doing the procedure first. And explore alternatives to doing it. Then move on to where, how much, what comes after.


I would suggest that now is the time to get better informed on the issues you have brought up.
Insurance? yes or no? How much coverage?
Who made diagnosis? Where? When?
If insured, does policy cover surgery out of US and under what circumstances?
Why out of US?
Etc. Etc.

Oh, that’s Santa Cruz, California.

Thanks, all, and I invite all to keep them coming. Better to know stuff than not know stuff, especially in this area.

OK, we did the Pre-op, and yes it does need to come out. It’s scheduled for Wednesday morning, 12/8, and he’ll be staying with friends right after he gets out. The doc is certified by the American Board of Urology, and so is the other doctor working with him. He has done this before, but somehow didn’t answer as to how many–well he worked 6 years in the program at the Univ. of Calif. San Francisco.

And he said he doesn’t expect Tim to be on a renal diet, just use a healthy one, which I got him to define as “normal healthy, eat your fruits and vegetables” and not Atkins/South Beach.

So what else should I be aware of? If the hospital is said to be flakey administratively (they just gave me a wrong phone number, to reinforce the image), how can I effectively keep an eye on things? Can I at all? This is the kind of thing that is more of a test of smarts than any SAT.

I think I’ll call & ask for their social worker, and see if they can help me be a better resource for Tim.

What else to watch for, prepare for?