Do You Need a Second Opinion?
One of the most confusing issues in managing your own medical
care is when to get a second opinion. This topic is further confused by whether
insurance companies will cover the costs and how to tell which opinion is right
when two opinions differ. Some people even feel uncomfortable about asking
for second opinions, worried that this will offend the first practitioner.
Rest assured that second opinions are a standard part of good medical practice.
Physicians often request "consults" from other colleagues or specialists themselves - these
are simply second opinions. How do you know when another opinion is necessary?
When the medical history, physical exam and lab findings all point to a definitive
diagnosis for which the treatment is clear, a second opinion is not necessary.
Consider getting a second opinion when the diagnosis is not clear, when the
diagnosis is rare, when the recommended treatment is risky or when it's necessary
to choose between treatment options that vary greatly in their cost, risks and
benefits. Second opinions are very helpful when considering elective surgeries,
experimental treatments or newer treatments for serious conditions. Second
opinions are also valuable if you are not responding to a treatment as expected.
Second opinions should also be sought if a patient loses confidence in the original
Second opinions are best obtained by board certified physicians who specialize
in your condition. Referrals from your primary care physician are a good place
to start, but there are many other sources of referral information. Before
your appointment, be sure that your relevant medical records and test results
were sent to the consultant. Occasionally, the second opinion may depend upon
the results of an additional exam or other tests.
If the opinions differ between physicians, the most important question for
you to ask is why.
Click here for related information.
Created: 2/12/2001  - Donnica Moore, M.D.