Choosing the Right Surgeon

You’ve just learned that your condition requires surgery. If you haven’t already met the surgeon, you’ll soon find yourself face-to-face with a physician who will care you for before, during and after surgery. But how do you know if this surgeon right for you?

General surgeons are specialists who are trained to diagnose, treat and manage patients with a broad spectrum of surgical conditions affecting almost any area of the body. They can perform a variety of procedures from appendectomies and hernia repair to breast cancer surgery and gallbladder removal.

Since your well-being is in the hands of this physician, you’ll want to make sure you’re choosing a qualified surgeon. Here are a few questions to ask when selecting a general surgeon:

Is surgery really necessary? Ask if there are any conservative measures that can be taken to avoid surgery. Weight loss, lifestyle changes and physical therapy can sometimes improve health conditions. Compare the risks and benefits of surgery to the alternative methods of managing your condition.

Is your surgeon board certified? Board certification is a voluntary process where physicians demonstrate their expertise in a specific specialty or subspecialty of medical practice. Board certification demonstrates a higher standard of care. Surgeons who are either a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS) or working towards their fellowship are board-certified surgeons whose education, training, professional qualifications, surgical competence and ethical conduct are reviewed and consistent with the high standards of the American College of Surgeons.

How often does the surgeon and hospital perform the procedure? Ask how many operations the surgeon has performed in the past year and how that compares with his or her peers. Many studies suggest that surgical outcomes tend to be better when the number of cases is higher.

Does your surgeon—and hospital—receive high marks when it comes to quality of care? Hospitals are evaluated on performance measures related to surgery and many other conditions. The Joint Commission accredits and certifies health care organizations across the U.S. Accreditation means the hospital has undergone a rigorous evaluation of its patient care processes and receives periodic feedback on how to continuously improve care.

You can also obtain surgical referrals from your primary care provider and ask the surgeon about his or her success rate with this type of operation to gain a better understanding of quality of care.

Is the surgeon open and responsive to your questions? There’s no doubt, surgery is a big deal. Research the risk of the procedure and discuss your concerns with your surgeon. Make a list of questions and evaluate how the surgeon responds to your questions. Does he or she answer your question thoroughly and in a manner you can understand?

How important is location to you? Consider how close to home you want to be for the surgery and for rehabilitation after surgery. If a local surgeon and hospital meets your criteria, consider the importance of receiving care close to home.

Are you looking for a surgeon? Meritus Surgical Specialists treat a wide range of general surgical conditions using the latest surgical techniques. Stephen Sachs, M.D., FACS, is a board certified general surgeon who also specializes in vascular surgery and diseases of the breast. Colleague, Kevin Hurtt, M.D., FACS, FICS, is a board-certified general surgeon who specializes in laparoscopic and minimally invasive surgery.