We live in a time when our knowledge, recognition, and treatment of the diseases and disorders that abound are advanced and life expectancies are long. Unfortunately, there are still some diseases, injuries, and disorders that are so difficult to diagnose properly that a second opinion is not only suggested, but is often vital to ensuring the right treatment is given and the wrong treatment, together with its associated expenses, is avoided.
ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease) is one example of a difficult to diagnose disease. According to the ALS Association, 15% of those diagnosed with ALS do not actually have the disease. This means they are paying for treatment of ALS when that is not the underlying cause of their symptoms. With a second opinion, possibly from a neurological specialist who treats ALS patients, these wrongly diagnosed individuals could be re-diagnosed with the proper illness — one that might even have a cure and then be given the proper treatment. Whenever you are given a diagnosis as serious as ALS, Muscular Dystrophy, cancer and the like, a second opinion should be a definite part of your treatment plan.
Of course, organic neurological disorders aren’t the only diseases that get misdiagnosed and require a second opinion. Lyme disease, mentioned in the 2004 Reader’s Digest article, “10 Diseases Doctors Miss,” is often misdiagnosed because of its generic, flu-like symptoms. When diagnosed and treated properly, Lyme disease can be cured easily with no long-term damage. A misdiagnosis that results in Lyme disease going untreated can result instead in permanent joint damage. Although every bout of the flu should not result in a second opinion, in the case of long, lingering illnesses that don’t seem to respond to treatment, a second opinion is a good idea.
When it comes to unnecessary surgery, second opinions can save you money as well as recovery time. One example of this is knee surgery. The knee is a very complex joint and it takes years of experience for a surgeon to be completely comfortable doing anything less than a total knee replacement. This sometimes leads to surgeons suggesting a total knee replacement when the damage actually done to the knee requires only a partial replacement. Partial knee replacement is less invasive and expensive than a full knee replacement, and the recovery time is much shorter.
Sometimes, surgical procedures are diagnosed that have nothing to do with the actual health issue suffered by the patient. In 2008, the University of West Georgia published an essay on their Aneurysm and Arteriovenous Malformation Support page by a man who had suffered an asthma attack and went to the hospital. Instead of routinely treating the asthma, the physicians thought he was suffering from an aortic dissection, which is a tear in the wall of the aorta, and they performed emergency surgery only to find that there was no tear. Had he gone for a second opinion, the unnecessary heart surgery and opening of his chest cavity could have been avoided.
Although no one wants to prolong treatment of their diagnosis for fear of permanent damage to their health, a second opinion can be beneficial in this time of advanced medical treatment options. Taking the few days or weeks necessary to get a second opinion could result in a more accurate diagnosis and more effective treatment plan. At the very least, it can give you options to help you control your health care options.