Question: I know that in the case of a serious illness people will often consult with more than one doctor about their diagnosis. In your area of medicine, when people are having an elective surgery, is it common to get a second opinion?
Answer: Getting a second opinion on an optional surgery can be quite important for many patients. When it comes to an elective surgery it’s of the utmost importance for you, as the patient, to be comfortable with both the procedure and the physician performing it. Unless you’ve been to a surgeon before and had surgery with a favorable outcome, you may not be completely comfortable booking a surgery during your first consultation with that person. Probably the most critical level of comfort has to do with the physician you’re conferring with. Hopefully, you will have done your homework and determined that the surgeon you are seeing has good credentials, board certification, hospital affiliations, etc. A personal recommendation by someone who’s had work done by this doctor is invaluable or a referral by one of the doctors’ colleagues is a good indicator of the doctor’s status in the local medical community.
A surgeon that shows you multiple before and after photos of their patients is a good indication of the experience the physician’s had with a given operation. You definitely want a doctor who welcomes your questions without hesitation, fully explains all the benefits and the risks associated with a surgery, and if you are in fact getting a second opinion, offers their insight about the procedure you’re interested in, not about the surgeon that you saw first. A true professional doesn’t need to run other doctors or their preferred techniques into the ground; they only need to provide you with all the facts. This brings us to another thing that a second opinion may provide: alternative techniques for a procedure. In plastic surgery there are often different approaches to achieving the desired outcome. As in many professions, you will find those who keep abreast of new trends that have proven to be effective, those that jump on any new fad that pops up and those who are resistant to any change or updated procedures. You as the patient need to be informed about the different methods and why one is deemed better than another. This will inevitably add to your comfort level about the selected surgery. One last thing to consider about a surgery is whether or not it is even necessary. It is a good idea, if you have any concerns at all about your level of readiness for a procedure, to speak to more than one practitioner about it. Unfortunately, there are people out there who will perform an operation unnecessarily in order to line their own pockets. So, if you have any questions at all, you need to address them with however many doctors it takes to make you feel at ease. You will most likely have a good sense about whether the operation and surgeon are right for you if you’ve done the legwork.
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. Questions may be condensed and reformatted for the column.
Questions are answered by Dr. Mark A. Foglietti
, a nationally recognized board-certified plastic surgeon and author.