How do I choose my surgeon?
- The experience and expertise of your surgeon is likely the single most important factor in obtaining a good outcome. Studies show that the more volume and experience your surgeon has in treating your child’s diagnosis the better the outcomes. Don’t be afraid to ask your surgeon about their volumes and experience in treating your child’s particular diagnosis. Feel free to inquire about seeing before and after pictures of previous patients.
- Your surgeon should be Board Certified in Plastic Surgery. In addition, they should be fellowship trained in pediatric/craniofacial surgery. This requires at least one additional year of training after residency focused on treating pediatric craniofacial disorders. It is helpful that they trained at a high volume center having seen the full spectrum of craniofacial diagnoses, as well as, had the opportunity to operate and care for these patients.
- Your surgeon should be able to answer ANY and ALL of your questions and concerns in a simple manner. That is they shouldn’t talk over your head. This demonstrates that your surgeon clearly understands the anatomy, procedure and disease process. You should walk away with a full understanding of the plan of care for your child. Also, you should better understand the disease, the anatomy and the surgical intervention, including postoperative care.
- Your surgeon should be confident enough to be comfortable with you seeking a second opinion and may even offer you a specific surgeon. If they are uncomfortable with you seeking additional information or a second opinion regarding your child, you should be VERY concerned.
- The role of the craniofacial surgeon is to be the quarterback of an interdisciplinary team. That is, you may have other subspecialists involved in your child’s care, such as a neurosurgeon, but the craniofacial surgeon should be the one that dictates the plan of care.
- Your surgeon should be able to provide you with the information of other patients and families that they have treated for you to speak with directly about their experiences. Often this is helpful to patients as they obtain another opinion from families who have had first hand experience with your surgeon and hospital team.
- Listen to your instincts. You are your child’s greatest advocate and have strong intuition about your own child’s needs and care. If you don’t feel like something is right or explained well then seek a second or even a third opinion. Remember this is most importantly about you and your child.
- Your surgeon should demonstrate genuine concern and empathy for both you and your child.
- It is important that your surgeon has the ability to perform the full array of surgical options. That is to say they should not be a “one trick pony”. This means that each child is unique and requires an operation tailored for them. For example, regarding Sagittal Synostosis, a surgeon should be able to offer both minimally invasive (endoscopic) procedure and the open procedure. The surgeon should be able to discuss the pros and cons of each. Even though your child may fit an endoscopic approach due to an early diagnosis, for example, should you live geographically far from your surgeon, an open approach may be a better fit due to the fact that the endoscopic approach requires 4 to 12 months of postoperative helmet therapy and clinic visits. Make sure that you and your surgeon discuss the pros and cons of ALL surgical options. Seek a second opinion should your surgeon not be able to offer multiple options and a specialized plan of care for your child.
- Your surgeon should provide you with educational resources which may be written materials or Internet-based information. This may include supportive resources such as nonprofit foundations, blogs and chat forums for families who have similar diagnoses. Even after a thorough initial consultation with your surgeon, often families are overwhelmed and are only able to retain a portion of the information discussed. Therefore, it is helpful for families to have either written material or a variety of nonbiased resources that serve to answer additional questions that will certainly arise. Your surgeon should continue to be available to answer additional questions. However, having other families with the same diagnoses to interact with may help you feel connected and part of a larger support network.