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Sizing Up Surgery

The Value of a Second Opinion -- Is Surgery Necessary? continued...

"A certified pathologist can generally identify 85 percent of regular tumors," Roscher says, "but if there is a glandular difference, tumors are difficult to diagnose and often require second and sometimes third opinions." He adds that even with the small number of unrecognizable tissue growths, specialists need the availability of additional resources to confirm or dispute their findings and recommendations, such as through the California Tumor Tissue Registry, a network of qualified professionals that was created for such specialized second opinions.

There are, however, instances when emergency surgery is necessary in order to sustain life, such as when the diagnosis of acute appendicitis is firmly made. In this case, surgery must be done quickly and efficiently, and would not warrant a second opinion.

Routine Tests

The practice of ordering routine laboratory tests before admission for surgery is commonplace in most hospitals. Many doctors believe that urinalysis, chest x-rays, or complete blood counts, for example, can identify potential problems that might complicate the surgery if not detected and treated early. Some tests commonly performed before surgery and the symptoms that prompt doctors to order them are:

Patients facing surgery need to discuss with their doctors the necessity of having certain tests performed prior to surgery, says Mary Pat Couig, R.N., Associate Director for Nursing Affairs at the Food and Drug Administration.

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