8 Tips for Choosing a Thoracic Surgeon

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on February 4, 2022

When your primary care doctor or other specialist tells you that you need to see a thoracic surgeon, it can feel unnerving. Finding a highly skilled thoracic surgeon can help put you at ease. How do you find the right thoracic surgeon for you? Here are important factors to keep in mind.

  • Senior Woman on Phone
    1. Get Referrals
    Ask for a referral list from your primary care doctor or the doctor who suggested you see a thoracic surgeon. Family, friends and other healthcare professionals are also good resources for recommendations. Use Healthgrades to research the doctors’ credentials and experience. As you narrow down your list, call each doctor's office and ask for a consult appointment to meet and interview the thoracic surgeon.
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    2. Research the Thoracic Surgeon’s Credentials
    Board certification is an important factor to consider when you are choosing a thoracic surgeon. Certification tells you that the doctor has the necessary training, skills and experience to perform thoracic surgery. As you consider a thoracic surgeon's credentials, it's also important to confirm that they have no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. Healthgrades physician profiles list board certifications and will indicate a report of any incidents of disciplinary action or malpractice.
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    3. Consider the Thoracic Surgeon’s Experience
    Experience matters when you’re facing chest surgery. The more experience a thoracic surgeon has with a particular condition or procedure, the better your results are likely to be. Experience enables the thoracic surgeon to better prevent, anticipate, and manage complications. Healthgrades physician profiles enable you to view a doctor's treatment frequency for your condition or procedure compared to their peers. This information can help you pick a surgeon with the experience you need. If you know you need a specific procedure, ask how many of the procedures the doctor has performed and find out about complication rates—complications the doctor has encountered as well as your own risk of complications.
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    4. Consider Gender
    It is important for you to feel comfortable with your thoracic surgeon’s gender because you will need to openly discuss personal information. Healthgrades allows you to filter your search results by gender so you can find a thoracic surgeon who is a good fit for you. Be sure to ask the thoracic surgeon about their recent training and experience specifically related to your condition and your gender. Doctors are becoming more aware of differences in outcomes between genders. As a result, specialized surgical treatment centers that focus on gender-specific care are becoming more common.
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    5. Research Hospital Quality
    Your doctor’s hospital is your hospital. For this reason, consider the quality of care at the hospital where the thoracic surgeon can treat patients. Nursing care after thoracic surgery is complex. Hospital quality matters to you because patients at top-rated hospitals have fewer complications and better survival rates. Two hospitals in the same city may report very different outcomes data. Additionally, consider whether the hospital’s location is important to you. Your chest surgery and rehabilitation may require frequent trips to the thoracic surgeon’s office or hospital. This may mean you need a convenient location.

    Healthgrades can help you find the top hospitals near you and their respective ratings by specialty so that you don't have to sacrifice quality for convenience.
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    6. Evaluate Communication Style
    Choose a thoracic surgeon with whom you are comfortable talking and who supports your information needs. When you first meet the thoracic surgeon, ask a question and notice how they respond. Do they welcome your questions and answer them in ways that you can understand? Did the surgeon ask your opinion about the available options? Check your thoracic surgeon's profile on Healthgrades to see how other patients felt about their communication style so you can find a thoracic surgeon who will consider your treatment preferences, and respect your decision-making process.
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    7. Read Patient Reviews
    Reading what other people have to say about a thoracic surgeon can provide insight into how they practice medicine, as well as how his or her medical practice is operated. Healthgrades physician profiles allow you to read patient reviews and ratings based on factors that typically reflect people's experience, such as communication, scheduling appointments, wait times and office environment, and office friendliness. You can learn how well patients trust the doctor, how much time they spend with their patients, and how well they answers questions.
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    8. Know What Your Insurance Covers
    Your insurance coverage is a practical matter. To maximize your benefits while keeping your out-of-pocket costs low, you may need to choose a thoracic surgeon who participates in your plan. You should still consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and affiliated hospital quality as you select a thoracic surgeon from your plan. As you weigh your options, you can use Healthgrades to see which surgeons are in and out of your network. Once you're ready to make an appointment, call the thoracic surgeon's office to confirm their coverage so you are aware of the costs upfront.
8 Tips for Choosing a Thoracic Surgeon

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2017 Jul 24
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.