Thursday, June 12, 2014

My Search for A Surgeon

Since I have had 5 attacks of Diverticulitis with 2 in the past month and 4 in the past year and a half, the doctors said I need to have part of my colon removed. I do not want it to perforate and have to get an emergency surgery that results in a colostomy bag.

I have always had a pretty practical opinion of looking for doctors and always felt like it was good to research but then if you didn't like them, you could just find a new one. Well, with surgeons, it is a bit different. You only get to pick them once and then it is out of your hands.

Since I talk to people about being an engaged patient, I decided this was a good exercise to practice my skills. I asked my doctor for recommendations, and I also asked physician friends and other friends who they recommended. I quickly decided that there was another problem. In Tampa, it appears that most of the surgeons only go to one hospital. So, I might like the doctor but not the hospital or the other way around. For example, our dear friend and colleague Debbie died in the hospital 2 years ago. Her bed was rusted in the hospital, and I did not feel that they gave her the best care they could have. I really did not want that hospital even though I was assured by the first surgeon that they had done millions of dollars of renovations that made it much better.

So, I searched for the recommended doctors and I also searched for surgeons as well as colorectal surgeons. Healthgrades seemed to have the best information on the doctors and the hospitals, but the information didn't really speak to me.

For example, here is one of the doctors I spoke to.
First, his experience was good in that he was board certified and the procedure I am having is listed.

Then, it lists review from patients. As you can see the ratings are pretty good, but there are only 20 of them. More disappointing for me is there were no "amazon" style reviews where patients just told their story in their words. 

Then, I could look at the hospital for colon surgery. Not the greatest mortality. :(

So I repeated this process for each doctor and I saw 4 surgeons in total. I had all of my records thanks to CareSync, and I could share with them my Health Timeline that had a brief summary of all 5 of my diverticulitis attacks as well. I also had the CT images and a second opinion comparison read of 3 of the recent scans. I felt so confident that they had the story and it was so nice to watch them process it and comment on how nice the summary was.

The first one said he would do it robotically but he couldn't fit me in until July 15th (remember there is a risk of perforation due to my recent events so this was a LONG time to hear in May).

The second one said that he does them open where they slice you long ways down your belly and he said that he didn't think he would be the best person to do the surgery.  

The third one said that he would do it hand assisted laparoscopically because of the time under anesthesia and that he can feel the colon better. He was very patient and answered all of my questions. He told me how many he had done and what his error rate is for leaks (only 1 in the last 200) without me even having to ask. I like that this was important to him.

The fourth one said he would do it all robotically. He seemed insulted that i spoke to four doctors and said that it really didn't need a second opinion and that I needed the surgery. I didn't want to tell him that I wasn't getting an opinion on whether to have it but who to have do it.  He is probably a fantastic doctor and was actually the one I had planned to go with before meeting them, but then I just didn't really like his answers about error rates and such.

So, my surgery is scheduled for June 16th. I have to do the prep on the 15th, and my pre-op testing on the 14th. I was excited to know that there is a new kind of prep where you drink a packet in 5oz of fluid twice during the day and otherwise you just drink clear liquids. Sounds SOOO much better than the Dulcolax and Miralax I had before colonoscopy.

As I have been reading blogs and message boards, I haven't found a site that really summarizes the whole process from the beginning. I decided that even though it is nasty colon stuff, I should be that person. I have really wanted to read someone's experience from the beginning to the end. I hope that this helps at least someone :)


  1. Love the summary Amy and how thorough you are being. Boy if everyone did this, healthcare would be radically different. Good luck on the surgery and hope everything goes great - Darren

  2. Thanks Darren. It was an interesting experiment, as I think it all will be

  3. Amy glad to hear everything went well and hoping for a fast recovery. By the way, the summary was Awesome!!

  4. Great outline on how a person-called-patient should work through a decision tree on a treatment. Delighted to see on your FB wall that, after a rough patch, you're back online, all systems go. So to speak =)