8 Tips for Choosing a Cardiac Surgeon

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on May 11, 2020
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    A Personal Decision
    Knowing you need to see a cardiac surgeon can be concerning, even if you understand that successful heart surgeries take place every day. Your cardiac surgeon will guide you through many decisions about your surgical treatment. It’s important to trust your surgeon’s guidance. How do you find the best cardiac surgeon who is right for you? Here are important factors to keep in mind.
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    1. Get Referrals
    Start your search with a referral list from your primary care doctor or cardiologist. Family, friends and other healthcare professionals are also good resources for recommendations. Take the time to research the doctors’ credentials and experience on Healthgrades.com. As you refine your list, call each cardiac surgeon’s office and arrange a consult appointment to meet and interview the surgeon.
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    2. Research the Cardiac Surgeon’s Credentials
    Board certification is an important factor to consider when you are choosing a cardiac surgeon. Certification tells you that the doctor has the necessary training, skills and experience to perform cardiac surgery. Also confirm that the cardiac surgeon has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find the cardiac surgeon’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history on Healthgrades.com and state websites.
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    3. Consider the Cardiac Surgeon’s Experience
    When you’re facing heart surgery, experience matters. The more experience with a particular condition or procedure a cardiac surgeon has, the better your results are likely to be. Ask how many patients with your specific condition the cardiac surgeon has treated. If you know you need a specific procedure, ask how many of the procedures the doctor has performed and find out about complication rates—complications the doctor has encountered as well as your own risk of complications.
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    4. Consider Gender
    It’s important for you to feel comfortable with your cardiac surgeon’s gender because you will need to openly discuss personal information. Be sure to ask the cardiac surgeon about his or her recent training and experience specifically related to your condition and your gender. Because gender can matter in cardiac surgery care, cardiac surgeons are becoming more specialized in caring for women and men differently. And cardiac treatment and rehabilitation centers that focus on gender-specific care are becoming more common.
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    5. Research Hospital Quality
    Your surgeon’s hospital is your hospital. For this reason, consider the quality of care at the hospital where the cardiac surgeon can treat patients. Hospital quality matters to you because patients at top-rated hospitals have fewer complications and better survival rates. Do your homework—two nearby hospitals could report very different patient outcomes! Additionally, consider whether the hospital’s location is important to you. Keep in mind that your heart surgery and rehabilitation may require frequent trips to the cardiac surgeon’s office or hospital.
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    6. Evaluate Communication Style
    Choose a cardiac surgeon with whom you are comfortable talking and who supports your information needs. When you first meet the cardiac surgeon, ask a question and notice how he or she responds. Does he or she welcome your questions and answer them in ways that you can understand? Did you feel rushed or engaged? Find a cardiac surgeon who shows an interest in getting to know you, who will consider your treatment preferences, and who will respect your decision-making process.
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    7. Read Patient Reviews
    Reading what other people have to say about a doctor can provide insight into how a doctor practices medicine, as well as how his or her medical practice is operated. Patient reviews typically reflect people's experience with scheduling appointments, wait times, office environment, and office friendliness. You can learn how well patients trust the doctor, how much time he or she spends with their patients, and how well he or she answers questions.
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    8. Know What Your Insurance Covers.
    Your insurance coverage is a practical matter. To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your care, you may need to choose a cardiac surgeon who participates in your plan. You should still consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and hospital quality as you select a cardiac surgeon from your plan.
8 Tips for Choosing a Cardiac Surgeon
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2017 Jul 23
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.