Three Reasons Why Getting a Second Opinion Is Worth It
Getting a second opinion when you’ve been told you need a transplant takes time, travel and money, so why do it?
A new Mayo Clinic study shows that it just may be worth your while.
The study has found that more than 1 in 5 patients referred for a second opinion—for many different conditions—may have been incorrectly diagnosed by their health care providers.
James Naessens, SC.D., of Mayo Clinic’s campus in Rochester, led the study that looked at medical records for 286 patients whose healthcare providers referred them to Mayo Clinic for a second opinion.
Dr. Naessens found that 21 percent of the time, the final diagnosis was completely different from the original diagnosis. Sixty-six percent of the time, the second diagnosis further clarified or better defined the original diagnosis. And 12 percent of the time, the second diagnosis confirmed the first one.
Why, especially, would it be beneficial to get a second opinion if your doctor has recommended you need a transplant? We chatted with Harmeet Malhi, M.B.B.S., transplant hepatologist in Mayo Clinic’s Transplant Center, and this is what she said:
- To make sure you have the right diagnosis. Malhi explained that just as Dr. Naessens’ study found, it is really worthwhile to ensure your diagnosis is correct. In fact, just recently, she said, she saw a patient who arrived with one diagnosis and left with a completely different one.
- To get another potential chance if you were turned down. Transplant centers throughout the country do things differently than one another, Dr. Malhi says, making it wise to check with another center for a second opinion if one center tells you “no.”
- To be at a center of expertise for your specific condition. Seeking an evaluation at another transplant center for your particular case, especially if it is complicated, may make transplant a possibility. Transplant centers tend to have their “specialty areas,” or conditions they excel at treating. For example, Mayo Clinic’s liver transplant program has special expertise in bile duct cancer as well as transplanting patients who also need bariatric surgery for severe obesity. To make an informed decision about what center to see for your condition, visit the Scientific Registry for Transplant Recipients, which provides information on outcomes at transplant centers nationwide.
Therefore, if resources allow for a second evaluation and listing, it might be worth considering.
If you decide to pursue this, however, how would you even tell your doctor that you want to get a second opinion? Wouldn’t that be just plain uncouth?
“I don’t think it should be awkward to speak to your doctor about getting a second opinion,” says Dr. Malhi. “It should be done very openly. I don’t think it should be done in a secretive manner. I hope most physicians would feel comfortable with their patients seeking a second opinion.”
What has been your experience with getting a second opinion? If you have received a second opinion, what advice would you offer for broaching the subject with your provider?