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Posted on in Heart Health

The Right Way To Choose Your Heart Surgeon.

Finding the right surgeon for your heart surgery is much the same as finding any other doctor or specialist – except it is probably more important. So, additional input is better. Ask more people. Ask your other physicians. Find people who have had heart surgery. Yet, ironically, the sources that may be in question – according to the Harvard Medical School Publications – are those third-party rating sites.

Several public agencies have tried to respond to consumer demand for information about which doctors and hospital are better than others, but it has turned out to be more complicated than it appears, “ noted Dr. Karen Donelan, of the Mongan Institute of Health Policy at Harvard –Associated Massachusetts General Hospital and a lead author of a recent study.

Dr. Donelan’s study found people had trouble interpreting data presented on subjects, such as the number of heart surgeries performed, expected patient mortality and other issues. The researchers found that – at best – people correctly interpreted the data only about two-thirds of the time and as low as 16% of the time. Some of the data displays that the survey participants preferred were not necessarily the ones that they interpreted accurately.

So what does this mean for you and your heart disease?

After talking with friends, family and personal physicians, talk to your insurance company to see which heart surgeons are covered under your plan,” says McLeod Cardiothoracic Surgeon S. Cary Huber, MD. “Then meet with the surgeon and ask them a number of specific questions.”

Below are some suggested questions:

  • How long has the cardiac surgeon been practicing? 
  • How many surgeries of the type that you plan to perform on me have you done? 
  • How many of these procedures – such as bypass surgery or valve repair -- did you perform in the last year? 
  • How many heart patients my age have you operated on? 
  • What complications have your patients experienced? 
  • Do you have any pending malpractice suits?

Clearly, the answers to these questions are important to your ultimate well-being, but an equally important question is: “How to do you feel about the surgeon?”

Your relationship with your heart surgeon could last a lifetime. You need to be able to feel emotionally comfortable that the surgeon clearly explains what they plan and why. And you need to able to get answers to the many questions your heart disease will present.

Surgeries following a heart attack or for heart disease are some of the most complex operations. Make sure your surgeon and the hospital are right for you.

To find a physician, click here.

Sources: McLeod Health, Harvard Health Publications,,,

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