A second opinion is an evaluation by a doctor after a person has already been examined, diagnosed, or treated by another doctor.
A second opinion is not done to prove or disprove a doctor's recommendation. Rather, the purpose of getting a second opinion is to explore options, especially if a person is having difficulty choosing a treatment or if a diagnosis is unclear.
To get a second opinion, ask your doctor for the name of another expert. This should be someone your doctor is not closely connected with. Explain that this is how you like to make big medical decisions. Don't worry about offending your doctor. Second opinions are expected.
If you aren't comfortable asking your doctor for a name, check with your insurance company, a local medical society, or the nearest university hospital.
If you are deciding about a surgery or other special treatment, ask your primary care doctor (such as your internist or family doctor) for the name of a surgeon or specialist who doesn't work with your current surgeon or specialist. Also think about getting an opinion from a health professional with a different background.
When getting a second opinion, follow these steps:
- Ask your health insurance company if it covers a second opinion. For some surgeries, a second opinion is required.
- Schedule a visit with the second doctor. Give yourself enough time to arrange for your medical records to get there before your appointment.
- Have your first-opinion records sent ahead to the second doctor.
- Have the second doctor's office send a report to your primary doctor. This keeps all of your medical information in one place.