Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Surgeon Explains and Defends Simultaneous Surgery

In the continuing discussion sparked by the Boston Globe Spotlight Team's reporting on simultaneous surgery, Dr. Alexander Langerman, a head and neck cancer surgeon from Vanderbilt, wrote an informative piece explaining and defending how he conducts the practice. I, as a non surgeon, found his description of the clinical aspects of the practice very informative, and I encourage you to read his article here.

I was especially happy with Dr. Langerman's discussion of informed consent:
If you’re a patient, in your first visit with a surgeon, ask about the plan for your case, the surgeon’s strategies for trainees, and the way the surgeon handles his or her surgical schedule. I encourage you to get to know any residents who may be involved in your operation; they are a highly valuable second set of eyes who have already completed college, medical school, and often years of training so their ideas, questions, and participation elevate care. I would argue you do not need to require the absence of trainees or the continuous presence of the surgeon but rather a well-thought-out plan that has your best interests in mind.
If you are a surgeon or part of a surgical team, discuss your plan with your patients. You should let them know whether a trainee will be participating in or handling a portion of the procedure, and you should let them know if you are going to be out of the room.
If Dr. Langerman's surgical colleagues had all followed his wise guidance, the practice of simultaneous surgery would not have had the shocking impact it had when the story broke.

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