I remember reading an article when I was only a year or two out of residency, which stated that the best surgeon to choose for an individual procedure is often a surgeon who is mid portion of their career. The reasoning was that a surgeon who was just out of residency may be up to date on the latest technology and adjuncts in order to get a patient through a difficult procedure or an unexpected diagnosis. While a surgeon at the end of their career may have a wealth of experience, but may not be as up to date on the latest technology or newest treatment paradigms.
When I read this article, I remember being somewhat offended. I thought that I had received exemplary training and could handle any circumstance. Situations such as an emergency life or death surgical problem, a gunshot, or knife wound to the abdomen, a horrible trauma with severe injury, or a just a new patient with a perplexing problem. But now, after more than 15 years in private practice, which is 20 years after medical school, performing surgery on an almost daily basis, I can say that I have improved as both an operator and a clinician.
Dr. Red Duke once told my fellow interns that any monkey could operate. But it was knowing when to operate and when not to operate, that was the most difficult skill to acquire. In retrospect, I probably thought he just meant when to take or not to take a patient to the operating room. But an even more important and elusive ability is to know when you have done "enough" during any individual operation. A lot of times an operation, especially in an intra-abdominal operation, can be like creating a painting. When you are not sure when to stop and do a little too much you can harm the overall result.
I have learned to be as light and gentle with all tissues as possible and to proceed with what the specific anatomy of the patient, their body, gives you at the time. This leads to better outcomes and quicker recoveries.
Your surgeon should be supremely concerned about your recovery and getting you back to normal function or as close to that as possible. How do you find that person? You cannot trust just picking who has the biggest yellow page ad or the best website, and certainly not someone that buys a page on "The Top Doctors in America" magazine that is located in the seat pocket in front of you on your plane flight.
Advice from someone that you know and trust in the medical field is always going to be your best resource. If you know a physician, nurse, or especially a surgical scrub technician who works in the operating room, these people will know from experience who to steer you to for the best outcome. For my own community in Boise, Idaho and the Treasure Valley area, we are fortunate to have several excellent surgeons to choose from at each Hospital in the valley, no matter what type of specialist you need.
Some surgeons only operate at certain hospitals and as a patient, you should do some research to make sure that you get the facility and the surgeon that best fits your needs. More and more patients are comparison shopping by going online or calling to see which hospital or facility will offer them the best choice for high quality care at a lower cost.