When You Need to Get a Second Doctor's Opinion
When it comes to making major medical care decisions, most people eschew the idea of getting a second doctor’s opinion.
This may be because they know and trust their doctor, feel that seeing a second doctor would anger their own physician, don’t want to spend the time or money involved in doing so, or simply feel they cannot afford to pay for a visit to yet another health care professional.
In some cases, second opinions are not necessary, such as when a patient has researched their situation and has found that their doctor is skilled and experienced enough to take care of them, or is a doctor they have used in the past and, and they know he's is good at what he does.
Generally, second opinions are not needed for relatively minor health issues such as colds, lacerations, or broken bones because most physicians are more than capable of dealing with these types of problems.
However, when it comes to more serious problems such as joint replacements, major illnesses such as diabetes or cancer or delicate and dangerous surgeries, it is always a good idea to seek second or even third medical opinions.
Small Problems May Also Need Second Opinions
Having said these things, I want to be clear that there are times when even seemingly insignificant problems require a second set of eyes because if not properly treated some can become life-threatening.
Years ago a friend was walking barefoot on the deck beside his boat and got a splinter in his toe. No big deal, right? At first he self treated, but the problem only got worse. By the time he saw his doctor, the foot was infected. The doctor treated it as he would any minor infection, but when it didn’t improve; my friend sought a second opinion. That’s when he found out he had MRSA, which is a serious, life-threatening infection that is very hard to get rid of.
After two months in the hospital, more than a million dollars in medical bills and several amputations, my friend passed away. Sepsis had set in and had killed him.
Had he sought a second opinion and done so sooner, he might be alive today.
The point here is that it pays to keep a close eye on issues that may not seam important, and if your doctor’s help is not bringing improvement, you should not hesitate to find someone else who may be better qualified or more experienced to take a look.
Why Second Medical Opinions Matter
There are several reasons why getting second opinions matters.
1. Your First Cure May Be You Only Chance
If you are dealing with a major health problem, you should want to get the best person possible to help you with it because in most cases, you only get one chance to get it right.
Just because someone carries the title of doctor or specialist it does not mean he is the most skilled in his area. Thus, if you get someone who has less experience of lower levels of success you are taking a risk that could leave you with lifelong problems or even could wind up with more problems than those you originally had.
A close relative developed AFIB. His heart doctor changed his medication but seemed a bit too casual about his condition so based on a referral from a friend to an AFIB specialist, he sought a second opinion.
The level of care he then received was hugely different from what his first “specialist” had been doing. This doctor eventually performed AFIB surgery on him and eliminated 16 bad cells in his heart. All went well, but the next day he started failing and was rushed back to the hospital. There was fluid building on his heart.
The doctor was notified, immediately left his practice, rushed to the hospital, personally wheeled the man to the catheter lab and performed a delicate procedure that eliminated 180 mm of fluid from his heart, thus saving his life. Had he been “casual” and waited a day, the man would have died.
Sometimes there are no second chances, so making sure your doctor case enough and is skilled enough to provide the help you need is important. Your life is worth the extra few hundred dollars you might have to pay to find him!
2. All Doctors Are Not Created Equal
As with all professions, some doctors are just smarter, more skilled, more flexible, more cutting edge and more caring than others.
These qualities are more important than most patients realize. For example, a doctor who is constantly researching, sharing views with other physicians and attending conferences and classes is always going to know more than one who doesn’t do these things.
- Years ago I had a hip replacement that was done by a doctor who was known to be excellent. I had researched him carefully, and was happy that I had chosen the right man. However, I did not get a second opinion.
- Two years later my other hip needed to be replaced, but I had heard that there were better, less invasive ways of doing this surgery. I spoke with my original surgeon about this, but he made it clear that if he operated on me again, he would not use the new techniques because he didn’t like them.
- As a result, I sought out a second surgeon who was successfully using the new methods. After the first surgery I was left with a 14 inch scar, and it took me two months to recover. After the second surgery, I had a 2 ½ inch scar and recovered in four weeks.
- After five years, the first implant failed and had to be replaced. I chose the second surgeon for the job because he clearly would do it in a way that would be less painful and would heal faster.
- Taking the time to meet with the second surgeon clearly made a huge difference for me. My only regret was that I didn’t take the time to learn about him the first time because doing so likely would have helped me to avoid an extra operation.
The second doctor’s incision was just over 2 inches long, he used the old incision as an entry point (which meant no further scarring), and my recovery took less than a month.
People who chose the first doctor without seeking second opinions had more chance of infection and suffered longer than those who took the time to shop around.
3. A Doctor with the Best Credentials Usually Does a Better Job
Third, it’s important to understand that half of practicing doctors graduated in the lower fifty percent or their graduating classes, and some went to universities that are not top notch. Many are not even board certified or did not have fellowships in their fields of specialty.
For this reason it’s important to find out where a doctor attended school and what his certifications are.
An Ideal Situation That Resulted from Patient Persistance
When Do You Need a Second Doctor’s Opinion?
Obviously, any time you are facing surgeries or are dealing with major health problems it’s always a good idea to seek opinions from doctors other than the one you currently are seeing unless you have researched him carefully and feel completely confident in him. If he’s a really good doctor, he may urge you to ask another doctor’s advice.
If you have any doubts at all, you should always seek additional medical advice.
A friend was told she had a brain mass that would require a craniotomy. After speaking with a second specialist, she discovered that she might not even need surgery at all, but if she did, it would be a minimally invasive type!
Additionally, if you have a problem that is getting worse instead of better, it’s time to find a second opinion.
You should use common sense when deciding about this issue, but in truth it can’t hurt to get a second set of eyes looking at your health problem and can make a huge difference in treatment as well as recovery.
An Extreme Example of Why Second Opinions Matter
The Bottom Line
Even if you discover that your first doctor turns out to be the best choice, at least you will know that you’ll be getting excellent care. Putting your mind at peace when you are facing a major surgery or illness can be a great stress reliever.
The bottom line is that anybody facing major health issues should make it a point to do some research and then have a second doctor review their case.
There is no better way to make sure that you’ll have the best possible results.
One Doctor's View
Have you ever regretted not getting a second doctor's opinion?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2019 Sondra Rochelle