How to pick a surgeon

How to pick a surgeon

How to pick a surgeon 150 150 Dan Frith

If you need emergent surgery, there is no decision to make.  You take whomever the hospital assigns or whomever is available.

But what about elective surgeries like hip or knee replacements… or a heart valve repair…or certain cancer surgeries?  For me, I would always choose the surgeon with the most experience.  The surgeon who has done dozens if not hundreds of the very surgery I need.  Now, there is evidence that the experienced and specialized surgeon is exactly who should perform your elective surgery.

The British Medical Journal published a report in July which analyzed more than 695,000 operations performed by 25,000 surgeons in the United States between 2008 and 2013.  The study focused on 8 complex heart or cancer surgeries.  Without getting into the weeds, the results showed overwhelmingly that surgeons who had performed the surgery at issue many times got better results, in other words fewer patients had complications or died.  The results improved further when the surgeon regularly performed the procedure and specialized in the surgical procedure.

This should not be earth shattering news – it makes common sense. You may read the article here.

My Take:  If you are facing elective surgery, ask your surgeon how many times she/he performed the surgery in the last 2 years.  You might also ask if your surgery is a procedure the doctor specializes in.  For example, I would want an orthopedic surgeon who primarily operated on hips as opposed to an orthopedic surgeon who operated on both hips and shoulders. If the doctor is insulted by your question, there is probably a good reason and also a good reason to find another surgeon.


About the author

Dan Frith

Dan Frith has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in cases of medical malpractice throughout Virginia. He has been named "Best Medical Malpractice Attorney" by Roanoker Magazine and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To speak with Dan, contact him by email at

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