Just as there’s no such thing as a free lunch, there is no such thing as a risk-free surgical procedure.Doctors, however, don’t always make that clear.
Consider hernia-repair surgery, a procedure to correct a fairly commonly occurring protrusion of intestine or fat at a weak spot in the abdomen. More than a million patients a year undergo hernia repair; it’s among the most common surgical procedures. What many of those people don’t know, though, is that the surgery, widely considered a minor procedure, poses a major risk: chronic post-surgical pain. Studies show more than 30 percent of patients who have surgery to fix a hernia suffer from chronic pain and restricted movement afterward.
Doctors should not understate the risks of this procedure by telling patients, as they often do, “it’s just a hernia,” B. Todd Heniford, president of the American Hernia Society, recently told the Wall Street Journal. “This is not a 100-percent benign procedure,” he said. “We need to help patients weight the potential risks and benefits of surgery and say no if they need to.”
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