4 Ways to See If You Found The Right Surgeon

How to Check on Your Surgeon

It can be hard for people to know if they have found the right surgeon.  I firmly believe that anyone not sure of what to do, should consider a second opinion before having any type of elective medical treatment.  However, there are some things to look for in your surgeon before having any orthopedic surgery.  These are suggestions that you might want to consider when evaluating your doctor. 

They Passed Their Boards

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Board certification is a basic assessment of a surgeon's knowledge, decision making, and surgical outcomes.  Every U.S. based surgeon with adequate training is eligible to take the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery examination.  Surgeons who have recently completed their training may be 'Board eligible' for a period of several years before they can become Board certified.

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They Have Experience

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Experience matters.  Not that you need to find an old surgeon--many young surgeons have excellent training--but you should find a surgeon who regularly performs the surgery you need to have done.  Numerous studies have found that surgical outcome correlates with the number of times your surgeon performs that procedure each year.

Surgical procedures that are common should be performed several times each month by that surgeon, and surgical procedures that are uncommon should be performed several times each year.  We know that experienced surgeons tend to have better outcomes and fewer complications than inexperienced surgeons.

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Good Online Feedback

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Not everything you read on the internet matters, but you can often get a sense of a surgeon from both online reviews and regulatory agencies. 

Online review sites for doctors are often an outlet for upset patients, but a pattern of repeated complaints may be a warning sign that many patients have a problem.  I don't know if you can tell much about a doctor if they have a 4-star vs a 4.5-star rating, but you can probably learn a lot if you read multiple negative reviews.

Most states have online databases provided by their State Medical Board.  These databases include information about physician discipline, medical license status, and malpractice cases.  Again, there may be a reason for a blemished record, but a pattern of concerns is certainly a reason to look elsewhere.

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People Who Know Trust Them

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The most important way to check your surgeon is to find out from people who know.  Not only other patients, but the best resource is often a referring doctor or another provider. 

Primary care doctors hear a lot about the surgeons they refer their patients to, and often can help to steer you in the direction of a good surgeon.  Primary care doctors want their patients to come back to them better and happy, so they tend to refer to specialists who can achieve this goal.

Other providers, including other specialists, or even hospital staff, often know about a surgeons reputation.  They can let you know if there are concerns about the surgeons from the people who work with that doctor.

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Finding the Right Surgeon

It can be a challenge sometimes to know if you have found the right surgeon. You don't get to go back a make the decision again, so use the opportunity to make sure you are in good hands. It doesn't take the risks out of having surgery, but it can make it a better experience for you. As stated at the outset, if you're ever unsure, a second opinion can be a good way to check to make sure surgery is the best option for you.

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