Tuesday, February 23, 2010

When should I seek a second opinion?

This is a GREAT question:

Another question that's been on my mind a lot: how do you know when to get a second opinion? For example: if a non-surgical procedure has been done, and the doctors say that the next step, if one is eventually needed, will be surgery, would you seek a second opinion then? Or would you wait until/if they say surgery is needed, and then get a second opinion? If you wait, what if there isn't enough time for a second opinion once they recommend surgery? (I can give you the details if you want.)

This mom has a baby who was born with a cardiac defect. He has already had one procedure and the local cardiologist says that he might need more procedures and if he does it will be open heart surgery. They are interested in getting a second opinion about how to treat their son but aren't sure how to go about getting one.

A second opinion is ALWAYS an option and ALWAYS a good idea, especially when major procedures are in question. Remember, you are your own best advocate and if you are uncomfortable with your provider's recommendation than you should seek another opinion. DO NOT worry about making your provider upset.. any provider who gets upset because their patient asked for a second opinion is not a good provider. It is not your job worry about your provider's feelings and no provider is going to treat you differently because you asked for a second opinion.

Sometimes it can be tricky to figure out how to actually go about getting a second opinion.

The first thing you should do is get a copy of all records relating to your problem. You can request them from your primary care provider or the applicable specialist. You may have to sign a release but you have the right to your own medical records. Don't be afraid to ask.

Check with your insurance company about coverage for a second opinion. Most companies will cover this without a problem but you may need your primary care provider to write a referral. Other insurance companies will not care and you can just call and make an appointment.

There are many resources available to find specialists who might be able to help you. In my own family, we have travelled to Boston, Baltimore and Atlanta to see specialists that I located through the internet. Once you find who you want to see, call and tell them you would like to make an appointment for a second opinion. They will need as much information as possible so make sure you have all your records gathered before you call. You should fax the records ahead of time so the specialist has time to review them before the appointment. Never show up to the appointment without sending records ahead of time because the specialist will not have any idea what the problem is and you will waste your entire visit telling the specialist what has been going on. They need to have all the information ahead of time.

Once you have two opinions about how to treat the particular problem then you can make an educated decision on the best way to proceed. The more information you have, the better.

Thanks for the great questions! Keep them coming!

Subscribe in a reader


  1. Thanks, Laura. In this particular case, would you seek the second opinion now, or would you wait until/if the situation worsens?

  2. I would say it's never too early to seek a second opinion. I would do it now.