Definition and Overview

Surgery second opinion is an appointment set with another general practitioner or specialist once the patient receives a surgical recommendation.

Surgery isn’t always the first line of treatment for many diseases. In fact, as much as possible, doctors avoid it. Not only is it risky, regardless of whether it’s minimally invasive or open surgery, it is also costly. The healing process can also be slow and sometimes difficult for the patient.

However, in certain instances, surgery becomes the best or the only available option. At this point, many patients are faced with a challenging decision of whether they would proceed with the operation or not.

To help them make a well-informed decision, they are advised to seek second opinion.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Second opinion can be pursued by any patient who’s been advised to undergo surgery, as well as their family who can act on their behalf.

It can also be sought if the patient:

  • Wants a confirmation that surgery is the only option and that the condition cannot be reversed through medications or therapy and other non-invasive or minimally invasive options
  • Wants to obtain answers for some of the troubling questions that were not answered by his own doctor
  • Is having difficulty coming up with a good decision
  • Is doubtful of the first opinion
  • Needs help in choosing the best treatment
  • Likes to learn more about the condition
  • Wants to confirm the initial diagnosis and treatment plan

It’s not uncommon for general practitioners to recommend a second opinion to their patients, and patients are always free to seek it at any time, even if they’re already in the pre-surgical stage.

However, second opinion is recommended only if the condition is considered serious but not urgent or an emergency like aneurysm or bone fractures, which can be life-threatening if immediate medical intervention is not provided.

Second opinions don’t have to mean different treatment or diagnosis than the first one.

How Does the Procedure Work?

  1. The patient requests for a second opinion from another health provider, who may be referred by the primary doctor or by the insurance company.

  2. A schedule is given to the patient.

  3. The patient informs the primary doctor of the second opinion appointment and asks for all his medical records including the tests already taken, which can be forwarded to the next health provider. This would prevent the patient from going through the same exams again.

  4. The second health provider reviews the given medical records, performs the necessary interviews and physical exams, and asks for any other test that may have not been taken by the patient.

  5. Based on the results, the doctor either confirms the first opinion or gives a different one.

Possible Risks and Complications

The biggest problem with surgical second opinion is when the treatment options are different. When the condition is already deemed serious, a patient may not have enough time to sift through the contrasting information. Further, if the diagnoses are different, a third opinion may have to be considered.


  • Vashitz, G., Davidovitch, N., Pliskin, J.S. Second medical opinions. 2011;150:105–110.

  • Hewitt, M., Breen, N., Devesa, S. Cancer prevalence and survivorship issues: analyses of the 1992 National Health Interview Survey. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1999;91:1480–1486.

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