Should I Seek Out a Second Opinion Before Surgery?

Medical professionals make incorrect calls all too frequently. Thus, whenever a doctor or surgeon recommends that you undergo surgery, it’s important to solicit a second opinion. The term “second opinion” is pretty much self-explanatory: It’s a medical judgment from a doctor who is not one you normally see.

Unnecessary Surgeries Are Common

According to Consumer Reports and the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, 38 percent of total knee replacements, 26 percent of total hip replacements, 12 percent of angioplasty surgeries, 17 percent of spinal fusions, and a shocking 70 percent of hysterectomies are unnecessary. And those are just a few surgical categories.

Don’t Feel Guilty Asking for a Second Opinion

It can be difficult to seek a second opinion if you’ve had a long relationship with a certain medical professional and if you really trust him or her. But for your own safety and well-being, it’s imperative that you do so. Moreover, you should never feel guilty about it. Indeed, it’s such an important action that many health insurance companies will pay for it — and that includes Medicare Part B. Because second opinions often inform people that they don’t need surgery, they reduce overall healthcare costs.

An Independent Judgment

When you’re looking for a second opinion, you might ask your doctor to recommend someone. On the other hand, you might feel that a medical profession who’s not affiliated with your doctor would render a more independent verdict. Another way to ensure the objectivity of the person giving you your second opinion is to withhold the first opinion. After all, if this person knows that someone else has recommended surgery for you, it could influence — consciously or subconsciously — his or her judgment.

Preparing for Your Second Evaluation

If your insurance company is willing to pay for your second opinion, be sure to find a surgeon who accepts your policy.

Ask your doctor’s office to supply your second opinion provider with your medical records. That includes any applicable X-rays and body scans. In the case of prostate cancer surgeries, Dr. Mark Gonzalgo of Johns Hopkins University recommends that patients ask their second opinion givers to review their biopsy slides as well. Moreover, before you show up to get your second evaluation, call ahead to confirm that the office has received your records.

A Difference of Opinion

If the second opinion is the same as the first, you’ll probably want to go ahead and have the surgery done. If the opinions conflict, however, you’ll have to weigh your options carefully. Alternately, you can go to a third doctor to break the tie. Medicare and some private insurance companies cover third opinions.

In conclusion, the only time you should not seek a second opinion regarding surgery is when you need an emergency, life-saving surgical procedure. Otherwise, always remember that you have the right to make all of your own healthcare decisions, and that of course includes whether or not to have surgery.