How To Choose A Surgeon

Today, patients have access to numerous resources in order to become better informed and are more knowledgeable about medical issues. As a result, consumers use this information to help them in making important decisions as it pertains to their healthcare. One of these important decisions, is how to decide upon a surgeon when facing a major surgical procedure.

MMC Dept of Surgery - Choose Surgeon

Whether your primary care provider has recommended a surgeon or you decide to select one on your own, it’s important to research your surgeon’s qualification.

Some of the credentials and items to consider follow below:

  • Board Certification Status: A sign of a surgeon’s competency is often qualified by their certification by a surgical board that is approved by the American Board of Medical Specialties. Surgeons who are board-certified in a surgical specialty have completed years of residency training and demonstrated knowledge and competence by successfully completing a rigorous examination.
  • Fellowship in the American College of Surgeons: The letters FACS (Fellow of the American College of Surgeons) after a surgeon’s name are used to indicate that the surgeon's education and training, professional qualifications, surgical competence, and ethical conduct have passed a rigorous evaluation, and have been found to be consistent with the high standards established and demanded by said College.
  • High Surgical Volume (Number of Cases): You can consider asking your surgeon how many of your type of operation he/she has performed in the past year. Research suggests that surgical outcomes tend to be better when surgical volume is highest. A surgeon who performs many of your type of procedure will most likely be a better choice than one who does very few. Unfortunately, there is no definite answer to how many is “many”? Although some excellent surgeons can maintain their skills in doing a specific surgical procedure without continuing practice, if a surgeon is not performing an operation like yours at least every few weeks, you have reason to consider whether a more practiced surgeon might lead to a better outcome. If your surgeon practices in a teaching hospital, be sure to insist that your chosen surgeon, rather than an intern or resident, perform the surgical procedure.
  • Practice at a reputable hospital —Choosing a doctor who practices at a highly reputable, accredited health care facility, may improve the chances of surgical quality while, again, not guaranteeing it.
  • Recommended by a commercial evaluation service: When outcomes data is not available for your state, hospital, or type of operation, you might consider using one of several commercial, online “Best Doctor” services. (Try searching the Internet using the term “best doctors.”) One such service, http://www.bestdoctors.com, uses a national survey method to solicit doctor recommendations from other prominent doctors. While using a physician found by this method does not guarantee excellence, it does enable you to use a surgeon who has received multiple votes of confidence from his or her peers. These services often charge a fee for their recommendations.

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