Medical Minute: Beating the Odds

Buying a car, finding a realtor, or remodeling your home, chances are you would ask more than one person for advice before making these choices.

Dr. Ralph Damiano, a cardiac surgeon, says, “If you were having your house painted, you would often get more than one opinion, and I think your own health is probably just as important as your house.”

Dr. Ralph Damiano says there are at least three times you should always get a second opinion: your doctor gives you a rare or serious diagnosis, your doctor tells you there’s nothing that can be done, or you’re feeling fine, but your doctor says you need surgery or other treatment.

Surgeon Kim Manwaring welcomes second opinions and says, “I have directed families to gain even a third opinion.”

And he says other doctors should too.

“No thoughtful physician would be offended by a patient developing a second opinion relationship with another doctor.”

But what if your doctor is offended?

"I’d think it was a red flag for you, probably very much so. You’d probably need a second opinion.”

First try asking your doctor for a referral. If you’re not comfortable with that, call the major medical centers in your area. Some hospitals actually have second opinion hotlines.

“We have a number people can call. They do not have to come see us. Within 48 hours, we will give you a second opinion.”

In most cases, insurance companies will cover a second opinion if it’s an in-person visit. Some companies even require one. Make sure you bring a copy of all your most recent tests and your medical records with you.

“You almost can really never bring too much information.”

Myrna Hershman faced invasive bypass surgery. Just before her procedure was scheduled, she got a pamphlet in the mail.

Myrna says, “It said if anybody told you that you needed heart surgery, and you wanted a second opinion, Barnes is offering free second opinions. So, I said,' what could be better than that?'”

It turns out she was a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure.

“When something can be verified, you’re more confident that that’s the way it is.”

Instead of a large scar and a broken breast bone, Myrna only has a tiny scar, and recovery was a cinch.

“You really never know until you check it out.”

And “checking it out” could just save your life!