The Dirty Little Secret of How to Choose the Best Surgeons

Someone finally figured it out! How do you choose the right surgeon for your procedure? Online reviews? Statistical data in which it’s unclear how the data was collected and what variables were used? As you may have gathered from these rhetorical questions, none of these methods are adequate in choosing the right surgeon. But a research group in Michigan has indeed figured out how to choose the best surgeons for your surgery. Unfortunately we don’t have access to this method of choice.


best surgeonsAs you can read in this NY Times article and as published in the New England Journal of Medicine, research has shown a link between how skillfully a surgeon performs in surgery and how quickly and uneventfully their patients recover from surgery.  The study video recorded 20 surgeons performing weight loss surgery (gastric bypass, gastric sleeve) and then compared those surgeons to their patients’ recovery and rate of complications.  The results were clear – more gifted surgeons’ patients had better outcomes with fewer complications.


In the search for how to achieve better outcomes, it’s wonderful to find this connection between skill and recovery. The only problem is that you can’t really know how good your surgeon is in surgery because, other than this study, it’s hard to find unedited video of how they perform. If a surgeon does indeed post an intraoperative video of surgery online, then most likely they edit the video. And they probably only post the videos that put them in the best light.


Now, if you can’t find video of your surgeon’s intraoperative skills, what other options do you have? As a surgeon, this is my best suggestion. After you’ve met your surgeon and know where your surgery will be performed, ask around. Find a nurse that works in the operating room at that facility and ask them how skilled your surgeon is. They’ll tell you the unmitigated truth!


Take a look at these videos from the Michigan study comparing a skilled surgeon with a less skilled surgeon.

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