I get it…if a doctor tells us we need surgery we typically accept the recommendation and tell him/her to schedule the procedure. This conversation happens thousands of times a day all over the United States. But what if your surgery is a very complicated and involved procedure like bariatric surgeries, gastric bypasses, pancreatic surgery, aortic dissection repairs, etc.? What if your surgeon just finished her surgical residency and looks like she should be getting ready for her high school prom and not cutting you open?
In these more complicated situations, a smart patient must ask the surgeon the following types of questions:
1. How many of these surgeries have you performed as the lead surgeon?
2. For new surgeries/techniques that were not being performed when your surgeon was in training, ask your surgeon how he/she received training in the new procedure or technique?
3. Ask your surgeon what their results have been with the procedure? You don’t want to know what the national success rate is for the surgery, you want to know what your surgeon’s success rate has been.
Most surgeons are competent doctors. However, if you are facing a “life or death” procedure, you have a right to ask about your surgeon’s education, training, and experience with the very surgical procedure you are facing. If your surgeon is offended by your questions or refuses to provide honest and detailed answers, I recommend you get another surgeon. If the hospital where your surgery will take place rarely handles your type of surgery, go to a surgical center which performs that very procedure hundreds of times each year.
Not just “better safe than sorry” but maybe “better alive than dead.”