Why is it so important to choose the right surgeon?
Having an operation can be a daunting time in your life, and you will be relying on the surgical team for a satisfactory outcome. The surgeon is one of the most important aspects of the team and you should be happy before the operation that you have chosen the right specialist.
How do I choose the right surgeon?
Your surgeon should have the correct qualifications for the procedure. In the UK, 'MRCS' or 'FRCS' means that the surgeon is a member or fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. If further training has been gained, then this is often denoted in brackets - a Plastic surgeon, for example, may have FRCS(Plast) qualifications. Other types of surgery may have slightly different qualifications - for example 'FRCOG' for a Fellow of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
In the USA and other countries, the initials are often different - for example 'FRACS' means Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.
If you have any doubts, ask your surgeon what qualifications they have, and what they had to do to gain them. Don't be nervous - if their qualification is worthwhile, they will be proud to explain it to you!
Surgical Society membership
Membership of a Surgical society may be a good pointer that the surgeon stands in good stead amongst their peers. In the UK for example, a Plastic Surgeon may be a member of 'BAPRAS' (British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons) or 'BAAPS' (British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons); both these associations require strict criteria to be met before a Surgeon is allowed to join.
In the USA, the equivalent for Plastic Surgeons is the 'ASPS' (American Society of Plastic Surgeons).
Member of the GMC
It is important that you check your surgeon is a qualified doctor and able to practice in their country before you choose them! In the UK, all qualified doctors must be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) to be able to practice medicine, and their details will be available on the GMC website.
When you choose your Surgeon, location is an important factor. Whilst you may need to travel a long distance to get to a recommended or trusted surgeon, you should ideally be nearby to the surgeon's clinic or surgery. This is not only for convenience, but also for safety after the surgery; if there are any problems or complications, it will be far easier to return to your surgeon 40 miles away than if they were 400 miles away!
Is the age of the Surgeon important when I choose them?
Whilst an older surgeon may have more years experience, this is not necessarily an indicator for how good a surgeon they are! The most important question to ask them is how many procedures they have performed that are similar to the one you are going to have. A surgeon that has successfully performed 100 such procedures in the last year is probably a better choice than one who has performed only 5 such procedures in their lifetime, regardless of their age or other experience.
What other questions should I ask to help me choose?
You should feel comfortable to ask as many questions as you like (although the surgeon may not be able to answer all of them!)- a surgeon that gets angry or refuses to answer any questions is the wrong surgeon for you. As a minimum, though, as well as checking their qualifications etc, you should ask:
- How many times have you performed this operation?
- How many complications have you had?
- Can I see any before and after photographs of your patients? (especially in Plastic Surgery)
- What arrangements are there after the surgery if I need medical advice?
- What if I need further surgery and you are unavailable?
- When will I be seen again after the surgery? Will any further tests be needed?
- (For private surgery) - if I need any further surgery, will I be charged and if so how much?
And just before you choose your Surgeon.....
It is extremely important that you find a surgeon that you feel comfortable with. You should feel that you are able to ask as many questions as you wish, and get satisfactory replies. If you feel uncomfortable with a particular surgeon for any reason, you should not go ahead with surgery and instead find a different surgeon that you are happier with.
The information provided is as a guide only. Please also read our disclaimer