How To Get A Second Opinion For Surgery

Last Updated on October 30, 2023 by The SportsMD Editors


For your daily healthcare, you generally do not require a second opinion. However, you must consider getting a second opinion when deciding on a high-risk procedure like surgery or if you are unsure if an expensive test or treatment plan is right for you.

Second opinions are a way to learn about your diagnosis and choices for treatment and surgery options. Some doctors are more conservative while others tend to be more aggressive.

It never hurts to get a second opinion for surgery. Keep in mind that doctors are human and they too can make mistakes or be faced with unusual or challenging cases. When the first doctor’s opinion is the same or similar to the second doctor’s, your confidence in your surgery will be increased.

Getting a second opinion will help you ensure an accurate diagnosis, resulting in a smooth recovery.

While it can depend on your injury and situation, multiple studies make a case for getting additional medical opinions. In 2017, a Mayo Clinic study showed that 21% of patients who sought a second opinion left with a completely new diagnosis, and 66% were deemed partly correct, but refined or redefined by the second doctor.


When to get second opinion for surgery?

Anytime a doctor is suggesting surgery, a second opinion is advisable. Another consideration is your own personal goals might be different from the surgeon. For example, if you are trying to avoid surgery and your surgeon insists that surgery is the only option.

Doctors are not all the same and their treatment options for you will be based on their background and experiences. Their training and education will vary and even the use of new technologies or procedures. In addition, not all doctors are specialized to understand the entire musculoskeletal system. Hence, it would be best if you have yourself checked by a doctor who specializes in your injury when you suffer a sports mishap.


What tests are helpful?


X-rays are an excellent starting point for a second opinion. These tests provide a general overview of a particular joint or bone.

X-rays are incredibly excellent in detecting fractures and helps determine what next step to take in management. In addition, x-rays play a vital role in the diagnostic process as it lets doctors understand what imaging modality they must use next.
Computed Tomography, CAT, or CT Scan

When the radiologist spots a fracture, the orthopedic surgeon may order a CT scan. The scan will help the practitioner determine how complex the fracture is so that they can do proper presurgical planning.

Computerized tomography scanning integrates a set of x-ray images of different angles of a patient’s body. Then, it processes the image with a computer, creating cross-sectional images or “slices” of the patient’s bones, blood vessels, and soft tissues.

The resulting images will provide highly detailed information, which is more than plain x-rays offer.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI Scan

If an x-ray shows no abnormalities, the result is an excellent indication that there can possibly be injured soft tissue in a patient’s muscles, ligaments, menisci, labrum, or bones. The best follow-up testing procedure for a patient with probable soft tissue injury is an MRI scan.

Magnetic resonance imaging is a technique that uses computer-generated radio waves and a magnetic field. These processes result in detailed images of a patient’s organs and tissues.


What should I do before getting a Second Opinion?

  • Before moving forward in getting a second opinion, find out if it’s covered under your insurance plan. Medicare Part B and many insurance companies will pay for second opinions for surgeries that are medically necessary. Some may even pay for a third opinion if the first two surgeons have different treatment plans.
  • Be careful to select the proper and qualified doctor with specialties in your injury to review your tests and surgery options. Doing so will help you ensure that you are getting the right diagnosis and treatment plan.
  • Ask your initial doctor to either send you the medical records or send them directly to your second opinion doctor. This way, you will avoid having to repeat any of the tests you have gone through.


What are some common diagnosis errors?

For sports injuries, most issues are over-diagnoses or possible missed diagnoses.

Stress injuries, muscle injuries and peripheral meniscal tears are examples of a commonly missed diagnosis on MRIs. Additionally, non-specialists can misdiagnose how severe tendon and ligament injury can be.

Most overdiagnosed conditions include rotator cuff tears, labral tears, meniscal tears, and ligament tears.


What are the dangers of a wrong diagnosis?

When a practitioner commits a missed diagnosis, a patient might suffer ongoing symptoms that could have been avoided or fixed. Also, additional unneeded procedures may have to be ordered, which is a waste of money.

Overdiagnosis potentially leads a patient to go through unnecessary and risky surgery and treatment. For example, you might go through arthroscopy and surgery without needing it – just because of overdiagnosis.


How to get a second opinion from doctor?

  • You can ask your primary care doctor for another expert to consider for a second opinion.
  • You can also ask your family and friends for suggestions as they had a positive experience with local doctors.
  • Another option is to use a Telemedicine Second Opinion service from a local health center or a Virtual Care Service. These services can connect you with specialists and without the time and expense of travel.  An example would be if you needed a second opinion for knee surgery and you would want to see a top doctor who specilizes in diagnosisng and treating knees.


Here are examples of Virtual Care Second Opinion Services:

  • ViewFi Second Opinion and Virtual Care Services.  Allows you to quickly and conveniently speak with a sports doctor who is specialized in your injury area. Your doctor will thoroughly reviews your case, including all medical records, imaging, and other materials.  You’ll receive a detailed second opinion report and have a phone or live video chat with your doctor.  The cost of this service is $195.
  • Mayo Clinic Second Opinion Online: The Mayo clinic is a major referral center and many patients seek a second opinion from them. They have a long history of working together with other providers in the US and around the world.
  • Cleveland Clinic Second Opinion Online: The Virtual Second Opinions by the Cleveland Clinic connects you with the expertise of 3,500 Cleveland Clinic specialists. This service gives patients secure, online access to its a network of doctors across the US. Their Virtual Second Opinions are not covered by Medicare or Medicaid and they do not accept insurance payments. Their cost for the services is $1,850.


This video is a great example of how a second opinion can be beneficial, especially to those who are engaged in sports and want to recover.


The best thing you can do is to take care of your body as an athlete and have a good primary care doctor who specializes in sports medicine. They can help you through difficult injuries and treatment options and know when it’s best to get a Second Opinion.



Question:  When should I get a second opinion on surgery?

Answer: The first line of treatment for “runner’s knee” is typically nonoperative. Recommendations include: Rest from running until pain goes away, ice and anti-inflammatory medications to reduce pain and inflamation, taping or bracing to protect the knee, consider orthodics, see a PT to get a specialized rehabilitation ptogram.

Question: Does insurance cover 2nd opinions?

Answer:  Some insurance companies do cover second opinions for certain conditions but not others.  You should review your plan or call your insurance company to find out if your particular surgery is covered for second opinion.

Question: How much does it cost to get a second opinion?

Answer: Prices for Second Opinion’s services vary and can range from a low of a couple of hundred dollars to $3,00 or more.

Question: Under what circumstances might you want to seek a second medical opinion?

Answer: Anytime a doctor is suggesting surgery, a second opinion is advisable. Another consideration is your own personal goals might be different from the surgeon.



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The SportsMD Editors

SportsMD is creating the industries most trusted sports medicine content. To ensure the RunnersMD website provide accurate and comprehensive content, we work with carefully selected authors who have subject area expertise. All of our articles are written by health professionals and peer-reviewed. Content is reviewed and updated regularly to maintain accuracy and reflect the latest research.