Getting Second Opinions Before Surgery. Part 4

Posted by Lloyd on September 12, 2012

re there certain questions I should always ask if I’m trying to decide whether or not to have surgery?
Absolutely. First and foremost, does the proposed operation have explainable, definable benefits to you, both with regard to survival and to quality of life? And unless you feel that it is going to benefit you in at least one of those areas — namely, to increase your likelihood of survival, or increase the quality of your life in a way that’s meaningful to you — you shouldn’t do it.

How can I tell if I’ve gotten a good surgeon?
I believe reputation is important. You should ask your surgeon how often he or she has done the operation that’s proposed for you, and what the results have been. You should expect a level of comfort in the explanations you get from the surgeon, in both the reasons for having the operation and in the experience and knowledge that he has in doing that procedure.

Should I always get a second opinion?
Most often, I don’t think you need a second opinion if the answers you’ve been getting to the fundamental questions provide you with comfort. If you feel you need an operation, based either on its ability to prolong your life or make it better, then I think you should feel very comfortable in the decision. If you have any discomfort in that regard, then you should seek more information through a second opinion.

What about choosing to have the standard procedure that’s been done for years, versus doing something that’s experimental? How do I evaluate that?
Always evaluate that in the context of the outcome that you want. If it’s most important to you that the operation has predictable results, and you’re satisfied with what’s known about the results of the established procedure, then by all means stick with it. But there may be limitations in the standard approach and a newer approach may be designed to address those limitations. You should expect an explanation of why the newer procedure is likely to provide you with additional benefits. And you should have information on what the safety of that newer approach entails.

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