How do I pick a cardiac surgeon ?

Patients, who need to undergo an operation and their families, may sometimes feel that they are inadequately informed about which criteria to take into consideration while choosing a surgeon.

Should they pick a famous surgeon or a well-experienced one? Should the surgeon be a staff member of a reputable hospital? Or should they simply prefer a surgeon recommended by a patient who has undergone a similar operation?

Well, the selection of the surgeon is quite crucial regarding the success and course of the treatment. Basically, the patient should pick a surgeon, with whom he/she will feel safe and secured. It is highly likely to achieve success with a reassuring surgeon, who also frankly answers all your questions before the operation.

What should I ask the surgeon?

  1. First of all, ask your surgeon to make it clear if an operation is really necessary and why.
  2. Ask him/her if there is any way your problem can be treated without an operation.
  3. Ask him/her to tell you what might happen if you are not operated.
  4. Probe which operational technique (open vs. closed etc.) he/she recommends and why.
  5. If the surgeon recommends an open surgery, try to understand why he/she does not prefer closed techniques, which clearly inflict less damage.
  6. Probe how experienced he/she is in that particular surgery type and ask him/her about the success rates.
  7. Try to contact other patients who have undergone the same operation by the surgeon and ask them how their treatment went and if they are satisfied with the result.
  8. Ask further questions to get detailed information about the treatment process and post-operative days, the duration before discharge, how to get back to normal life in your post-op days and, if any, states that may affect your entire life after the operation.


How do I pick a surgeon for a mitral valve operation?

Mitral valve deficiency in fact has different subgroups depending on the cause and type of deficiency. Therefore, different types need to be operated using different techniques. These surgical treatments involve different challenges and exceptions. For instance, in repairing the mitral valve, while it is easier for the surgeon to treat the posterior leaflet problems, the surgical treatment of the anterior leaflet is more difficult. In cases where both leaflets need treatment, the operation becomes more challenging. Similarly, mitral valve treatment of Barlow and Marfan syndrome patients is even more difficult and has to be handled by a well-experienced team.

Not all mitral valve deficiencies and treatments are the same!

As a matter of fact, surgeons usually perform certain operations on a regular basis to treat certain diseases. Sometimes, even though the surgeon gets experienced in a single technique, he/she is believed to be highly successful in all surgical methods in general. If the surgeon has actually been regularly performing a limited number of techniques to treat diseases that need less experience, his/her impressive success rates might be very misleading about the surgeon’s potential success in more challenging techniques. Therefore, do not just ask about the success rate of a surgeon regarding his/her mitral valve operations in general. Instead, make sure you learn about his/her success rate in the operation type planned for you.

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