Some Facts You May Not Know About Second Opinions

1. Your doctor won’t be upset. It can be awkward to mention, but physicians typically welcome having their patients seek out second opinions. If your doctor has a negative reaction to your second opinion request, then they are likely not the right doctor for you.

2. They’re not that common. A 2011 poll revealed that only about 70% of Americans don’t feel the need to get a second opinion or do any additional research regarding their diagnosis and options.

3. The first opinion may impact the second. Ben-Gurion researchers recently surveyed hundreds of orthopedic surgeons and neurologists to explore whether second opinions are influenced by the first ones. Following the distribution of hypothetical patient scenarios, the researchers discovered that orthopedic surgeons were more likely to recommend more interventionist treatment if they were already aware that the first physician had advised one. However, they would lean toward a more conservative approach if the patient had not yet received an opinion.

4. You may need to reveal your priorities. Although your primary-care physician may be familiar with you and your needs, a specialist providing a second opinion may not be and could focus on different parts of the treatment. A recent study found that groups of patients and providers rate facts and goals relating to treatment differently.

5. You may need to be a bridge for communication issues. According to ongoing research, close to 20% of patients are sent to a specialist without any formal communication from the first physician. So before their appointment, patients should contact the office of the doctor providing the second opinion to determine what medical records they should bring them.

6. Not all diagnoses are correct. Between 2 and 9% of pathology reports are discovered to be partially or completely incorrect upon second review by an independent specialist. One third of these misdiagnosed cases can have a major impact on treatment and disease prognosis.

7. Always inform your first doctor about seeking a second opinion. It’s important to be sure all medical records and test results are available for whoever is giving the second opinion. You also want the experts to be able to openly discuss where they agree and disagree regarding diagnosis and treatment.


Written by Elijah Lamond