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In a short story I'm reading, I found this sentece:

ちゃんとした手術をするのかと思ったら、獣医さんはその場で切開を始めた

I guess 「の」 nominalizes the preceding sentence, but I'm not sure about the meaning if 「かと思ったら」. I found it can have rhetorical or softening usage, and it can mean "just when", but neither seems to apply in this case.

I think that means the veterinary is going to do a proper surgery and he begins an incision, but I'm not sure about that construction's meaning.

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ちゃんとした手術をするのかと思ったら、獣医さんはその場で切開を始めた

かと思ったら here is not a question, the か is being used as speculation, so it means something like "I thought he would..." or "I imagined he would..."

I think that means the veterinary is going to do a proper surgery and he begins an incision, but I'm not sure about that construction's meaning.

That そのば means "right there and then" and we're contrasting with the idea of ちゃんとした手術, "proper surgery", before that, so it looks more like "While I was thinking that he would do a proper surgery, the vet cut (him) open there and then", in other words the speaker was expecting an operation done in the operating theatre with sterilized equipment and masks and things, but the vet just whipped out a scalpel and started cutting at the scene.

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