Q: My friends all say I should get a second opinion from another doctor before scheduling surgery. I trust my doctor and do not want to go through the hassle of finding someone else. Is getting a second opinion necessary?

A: Having a planned surgery that is not an emergency provides you the opportunity to get a second opinion and consider your options, if you wish. Medicare Part B will help to pay for a second opinion. It is your right to understand and participate in your treatment options. It is also your right to have another doctor look at and provide their professional suggestions on your treatment.

Obtaining a second opinion does have hassle involved. You need to find another doctor in the field that is covered by your insurance and schedule an appointment. This could potentially delay the surgery if the first doctor has the ability to get it scheduled now. It is understandable why you would not want to go through all of that. The process can also feel stressful and may add to your anxiety about the surgery. Your opinion may be different depending on how major the surgery is expected to be.

You may decide that you are confident in your current doctor and treatment plan, and the idea of spending the time and energy on getting a second opinion is not worth it for you. If that is the case, then be confident in your choice and explain that to people who ask you.

However, if you have any questions about what is involved and if there are other options for care, then a second opinion will help you assess the situation better. If the procedure is risky, or there are several options presented to you, or the diagnosis is not clear, a second opinion is advised. Prepare ahead of time with your questions. Bring your current records with you to the new doctor. Tell them that this is what the first doctor recommends, and that you want to know their assessment and recommendations so you can make an informed choice in your own care.

Ask the second doctor if there is another option that they would suggest besides this surgery. Also, be sure to ask what your baseline recovery will be like. You need to understand if you will be back to functioning the way you are now, or better then now, or worse.

Your current doctor should understand that this is a standard medical practice and you do not need to worry about offending them. They may even offer you a doctor they recommend and consult with regularly.

Scheduling a surgery may come with other things to think about, such as planning for who will care for you after. Or perhaps who will care for your pets or a loved one if you are a caregiver. While you may want to get it over with quickly, it is important to think through all that will be required after the surgery so that you are prepared.

You want to know if it is expected that you will spend the night in the hospital, or if you will need to go from the hospital to a rehabilitation facility. When you return home will there be home health care and physical therapy prescribed? Consider if you need to ask friends and family to help with meal preparation, errands, and home care. Ask ahead of time what the recovery will be like and how long it will take before you are back to your regular activities.

Planning for surgery is no doubt stressful. Worrying about your decision, managing expectations of friends and family, and handling your own fears can feel like a lot. If it is not an emergency, then take the time you need to be sure your have the answers to all your questions. You want to go into the surgery feeling prepared and thoughtful about your next steps.

Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at mshapiro@seniorconcerns.org.

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