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Choosing a Surgeon

Choosing a surgeon is a very personal decision. In emergency cases, patients are rarely able to make that choice. However, when surgery is required in a non-emergency or elective environment, you want to take the right steps to choose the surgeon who is the best fit for your needs. It’s important to understand the different kinds of surgeons and surgery options that are available to you, get recommendations from others, and choose the surgeon who will provide the skill, comfort level and recuperative approach that you need.

What is a general surgeon?
General surgeons have extensive training in a wide variety of surgical areas including abdominal, gastrointestinal, breast, head and neck, vascular, endocrine, trauma, and critical care. General surgeons perform many appendectomies, gall bladder surgeries, and hernia repairs, as well as more intense surgeries such as Whipple procedures and liver resections.

Within general surgery, physicians can choose to specialize in many different areas such as surgical oncology and bariatric surgery. Depending on the procedure needed, you may want to choose a surgeon who specializes in that area.

Ask for recommendations
Your regular physician is by far the best resource for choosing a surgeon. Not only do they know which surgeons are good at a certain procedure, but they know which ones have a good bedside manner. Ask your primary care physician or specialist to recommend the surgeon they would choose for the particular procedure.

Other patients can also be very helpful in selecting the right surgeon, especially for elective procedures. If you are considering bariatric surgery, talk to someone who has had the procedure. Find out if they liked their surgeon, and if so, start there. Or, if you need a hernia repair, ask around to learn who had a good experience with their surgeon.

How do I know if I’ve chosen the right surgeon?
Credentials are important. Look for “FACS” after the surgeon’s name. The letters FACS (Fellow, American College of Surgeons) mean that the surgeon’s education and training, professional qualifications, surgical competence, and ethical conduct have passed a rigorous evaluation and meet the high standards of the College. Also find out if the surgeon is board certified by the American Board of Surgery. The surgeon you choose should also have privileges in the top hospitals in your area.

Ask questions.
If the surgeon doesn’t want to answer them, then they aren’t the right choice. You have the right to be informed, which requires good communication between you and your surgeon. Good questions to ask are:

  • How many times have you performed this procedure?
  • What is the recovery like?
  • What are the risks?

No matter how common the procedure, surgery is a big decision. Take the time to find a surgeon that is right for you. You deserve it. The links below can be useful in finding the right surgeon for you. Please let us know if you have other questions. We would love to hear from you.

Resources
American College of Surgeons – Looking for a Qualified Surgeon
American Hernia Society – Find a Surgeon
American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery – Find a Provider
Dallas County Medical Society – Physician Finder
Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeon – Find a SAGES Surgeon
Clinical Robotics Surgery Association 
Texas Medical Association – Find a Physician