While most people don't relish the thought of surgery, many people need the services of a surgeon at some point in their lives, and it pays to take time when choosing a surgeon to ensure that you get the surgeon with the best skills for your needs. Obviously, in an emergency situation, getting surgery is more important than choosing a surgeon, to ensure that you are stabilized so that you will survive in the long term, but if you have the luxury of time, you may as well use it. Using the right surgeon can substantially reduce your healing time, improve the chances of a positive outcome, and ensure a more pleasant experience.
People seek out surgeons for two reasons: elective surgery, and recommended surgery. In both cases, it pays to talk to a primary care provider when choosing a surgeon. Your primary care provider knows the most about you, and he or she is typically well acquainted with local surgeons and hospitals. Using your care provider's experience, you can get a list of recommendations for regional surgeons, and they are a good resource to start with.
When choosing a surgeon, it is a good idea to meet with him or her before the surgery to talk about the surgery and get a feel for how he or she works. Before making an appointment for an interview, however, research the surgeon. Find out if he or she is a member of an organization like the American College of Surgeons and to see if the surgeon is board certified, which indicates that the surgeon has received high quality training and passed a board exam. Many board certification authorities keep records on their members which are open to the public, and you can also ask the hospital about the surgeon's record; experience is always better, when it comes to surgery. Take the time to look at the reputation of the hospital the surgeon works at, as well. Information about both surgeons and hospitals can be found through accrediting organizations, and on review sites; search for “surgeon reviews” in your favorite search engine to find such a site.
Once you find a surgeon and a hospital you feel comfortable with, schedule a time to meet with the surgeon. Bring along all relevant medical records, including copies of medical tests, so that the surgeon can get a complete picture of your case. Ask the surgeon about his or her qualifications, how long the surgeon has been practicing, what kind of outcome to expect from the surgery, how long the recovery time is, and what kinds of complications you may experience. You may also want to ask the surgeon to detail the process of the surgery itself, to learn more about what's going to happen during the surgery.
Some surgeons keep patient reviews on files, including before and after photos, in the case of cosmetic surgeons. If the surgeon doesn't keep this information, you may want to ask if he or she can put a former patient in contact with you so that you can talk about the patient's experience with the surgeon. You may also want to ask around the community in general to get information about the surgeon's reputation, and, thanks to the Internet, you can pull up a wide cross-section of comments and reviews by searching for the surgeon's name in your favorite search engine.
If you can, take the time to get a second opinion on the condition which requires surgery, to ensure that surgery is really necessary, and take the time to meet with multiple surgeons while choosing a surgeon. Don't be wooed by big-name surgeons and hospitals: although these people and facilities can provide excellent care, you may be able to get comparable or even better care for certain conditions in other places.