how to find a great surgeon

Even relatively straightforward surgeries like gallbladder removal or hernia repair can sometimes cause serious complications, so you always want to be in good surgical hands. But the surgeon—and hospital staff—can be especially important for operations that are new or unusually complex, or that are being done to treat a potentially fatal disease like cancer. Here are some tips on finding the surgeon and hospital that are best for your situation.

One indicator is how often surgeons and hospitals perform a procedure. That can be vital for operations that are relatively new, such as gastric bypass surgery for treating obesity. While many surgeons have started performing the operation, not all are qualified. A September 2009 study found that the risk of serious complications from the most common form of gastric bypass surgery fell by 10 percent for every additional 10 cases per year the surgeon had performed.

Volume may also be especially important for unusually complicated procedures. For example, a study by researchers at New Hampshire’s Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center of people undergoing surgery for pancreatic cancer found that annual death rates were nearly four times higher for those treated by surgeons who performed the fewest operations.