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Ten Vital Things Everyone Must Know Before Choosing Your Eye Doc

by David D. Richardson, M.D

Many people regard their sight to be their most fundamental sense. Yet, every week thousands of individuals have cataract surgery on their eyes without having done any research on their eye surgeon. Who performs your cataract surgery is one of the most crucial decisions you will make in life.

It doesn't take a large investment of time to choose your eye surgeon if you know how. The following list of 10 Vital Things You Must Be Aware of Before Selecting a Cataract Doctor will tell you how. With this list you can decide on an outstanding cataract surgeon in less time than many people dedicate to selecting their next automobile.

1.  Do not limit your options to exclusively those doctors in your insurance network.
Despite what your insurance company's marketing brochures may intimate, the main factor in specifying who is "in-network" is who is inclined to agree to that insurance contract. Currently there is no formalized method of ranking eye surgeons and any insurance company that their network of cataract surgeons is the most qualified is disingenuous at best.

2.  Ask those you trust
Good sources of information include your primary care doctor, optometrist, and acquaintances who have had cataract surgery. Even better references include the operating room nurses and staff at your local hospital or surgery center. They are often in the OR with the eye surgeon and see which surgeon uses the latest techniques. Nurses are by nature very helpful people and will often be happy to respond to your question. The difficulty will be making it past the hospital's automated telephone maze and gaining access to a live OR nurse.

3.  Research your cataract surgeon's training
Where did your cataract surgeon train? You may not know which residency programs are the most respected, but it is simple enough to check their ratings once you know where your cataract surgeon trained. Two objective are U.S. News & World Report's Annual rating of Medical Schoolsand Eye Hospitals

Don't get too hung up on the ranking order - if your eye doctor trained at a top twenty program he or she had top-notch training.

4.  Research your surgeon's State Licensure
Your cataract surgeon must have an active licens to practice medicine in his state. In addition to verifying licensure, many state license sites will also inform you if there is any history of disciplinary or legal action against your eye surgeon. In California you can look up this information online at

5.  Confirm that your Doctor is Board Certified
Board certification is a type of "seal of approval" for all physicians. In order to get certification a cataract surgeon must successfully pass both a written and oral examination. Additionally, younger eye surgeons must recertify every ten years - a process that can take up to three years to complete. You can confirm that your ophthalmologist is board certified by checking the site: or

6.  Visit your surgeon's Practice Site
Assuming the preceding background check is favorable you can sometimes obtain useful information from your eye surgeon's internet site. Although many sites do offer educational materials, keep in mind that the web site's essential role is to market the practice. You won't learn anything unfavorable about your eye surgeon there, but it can confirm the positive information you have already acquired and give you some insight into the cataract surgeon's background and practice philosophy.

7.  Find out what others have gone through.
Are testimonials available online (doctor rating sites or practice web site)? Are testimonials visible in your surgeon's waiting room for your viewing? Will your eye surgeon offer you the name and phone number of an individual who had eye surgery that you can talk to?

Keep in mind that National privacy laws restrict the quantity of information your ophthalmologist may be able to supply you considering other patients who have had cataract surgery. All The Same, it should not be too troubling for your cataract surgeon to come up with a live individual who would be disposed to discuss the cataract surgery experience with you.

8.  Determine how many surgeries your physician has done.
There is a reason they call it the "practice of medicine." Just like a sports pro, an ophthalmologist's abilities improve with practice and experience. Every surgery differs in its "threshold" number (the number of surgeries necessary for the ordinary surgeon to become proficient). For cataract surgery I think this number is probably around five hundred.

If you are uncomfortable inquiring straightaway then bring someone with you to the appointment to inquire for you. This is a very important question. These are your eyes. You only have two. Get over your hesitation. Just ask.

9.  Meet the Surgeon.
The above research can give you an idea if your ophthalmologist is qualified to do your surgery. Still, you cannot know if this is the individual you want working on your eyes until you see with her. In addition to corroborating his or her credentials, you need to be comfortable with this person.

Trust is a significant consideration that can't be sufficiently formulated without meeting your cataract surgeon person-to-person.

10.  At Last, get a second impression.
Most people would not purchase an automobile without test driving it and at least one other auto. Why would you restrict your choice of eye surgeon because "he's on my insurance plan" before getting a sense of how comfortable you are with the choice your insurance has made for you? This is a very big decision.

Unless you are totally comfortable with your eye surgeon, get a second opinion.
The most experienced eye surgeons do not mind that you have or are going to get a second opinion. In fact, one quick test of your eye surgeon's comfort with her own ability is to let her know that you would like a second opinion. If the ophthalmologist becomes defensive about this then you know the second opinion was a superb idea, after all.

In summary, there are many things you can easily do to support that you have made a well-informed decision about who will perform your surgery.  Regarding the importance of your vision, you owe it to yourself to complete this inquiry before having cataract surgery.

David D. Richardson, M.D. is Medical Director of the San Gabriel Valley Eye Associates, Inc. He received his M.D. from Harvard Medical School, is Board Certified, is licensed in California, and has performed over 2,000 eye surgeries. He is taking new patients (even those without cataracts), and is always willing to offer a second opinion for those who would like the peace-of-mind that such a consultation would provide. In his limited free time Dr. Richardson enjoys sharing his thoughts about cataract surgery and disorders of the eye on his blog:

San Gabriel Valley Eye Associates, Inc. 207 S. Santa Anita Street, Suite P-25 San Gabriel, CA 91776


For more information, please visit this articles web page.
This article was published on Friday 13 March, 2009.
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