Here is a four-step process to find out most everything you need to know about a surgeon’s background & skill level.

  1. CONFIRM STATE CREDENTIALS. The Federation of State Medical Boards can tell you if the surgeon is licensed in your state. Go to and click on Consumer Resources to get to the free tool, “Learn About Your Physician.”
  2. CONFIRM SURGICAL CERTIFICATION. To find out if the surgeon is board certified or eligible in a particular specialty, check with the American Board of Medical Specialties (go to Board Certified means a physician has undergone lengthy training in a specialty and passed a stringent exam. It means the doctor has finished the appropriate residency but has yet to pass the test. It’s OK for young doctors to be board eligible – they have a few years to take the test. But, thee ABMS recently issued a ruling that physicians who try to use the term “board eligible” for their entire careers face penalties.
  3. UNCOVER PROFESSIONAL REPRIMANDS. Knowing if a doctor has been sanctioned by a professional licensing board should be an essential part of your search. For a $9 fee, the Federation of State Medical Boards will provide the disciplinary history of specific doctors in any state (click Credentialing, then Physician Data Services on its website). State medical boards also have doctor profiles that include board certifications, board actions, criminal convictions and medical malpractice claims. There are links to state websites; go to
  4. CHECK RATINGS, NUMBER OF PROCEDURES PERFORMED & COMPLICATION RATES: Pro-Publica & Consumers’ Checkbook both have websites where they rate surgeons & provide information on the number of procedures and complication rates, based on recent Medicare data. Plug in your zip code at the ProPublica website and you will find a directory of local hospitals that perform eight common procedures, along with surgeons on staff who perform them, the number of procedures they have done and their complication rates. from the nonprofit group provides a more comprehensive analysis that encompasses more than 5 million operations performed by 50,000 surgeons. It compares surgeons’ results for 12 types of surgery.

SURGERIES & SIDE EFFECTS: These 10 are the most common surgeries for Americans over 50, and the most common complications.

CATARACT REMOVAL: Complication: Posterior capsule opacity (blurry or cloudy vision develops after surgery. (Occurrence 20%)

PACEMAKER IMPLANT: Complication: Hematoma (a collection of blood outside a blood vessel) (Occurrence 2.2% patients over 70)

COLECTOMY: (partial or total colon removal). Complication: infection (Occurrence 12.4%)

CORONARY ARTERY BYPASS: Complication: Atrial Fibrillation (irregular heartbeat). (Occurrence About 24%)

HIP REPLACEMENT: Complication: Dislocation (Occurrence 2%)

KNEE REPLACEMENT: Complication: Blood Clot (Occurrence 1%)

PROSTRATE REMOVAL: Complication: Bleeding (Occurrence 5.3%)

INGUINAL HERNIA: Complication: Infection (Occurrence 0.2% (laparoscopic surgery), 0.3% (open surgery)

CHOLECYSTECTOMY: (gallbladder removal) Complication: Infection (Ocurrence 1% (laparoscopic surgery), 7.6% (open surgery)

APPENDECTOMY: (appendix removal) Complication: infection (Occurrence: 1.9% (laparoscopic surgery), 4.3% (open surgery))

*Information provided by International Journal of Surgery

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The Next Horizon Seniors & Military (Veterans/Spouses) Advocate/Resources/Services/Locator
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