Why did the other surgeon recommend something else?

There is an old adage that says, “There are many ways to skin a cat.” Medicine and surgery are among the few “sciences” where this saying really holds true, despite the fact that those of us on the receiving end of medical services wish it were not so. As patients, we wish we were under the care of surgeons and doctors who trained in the latest technologically and scientifically proven methods. These surgeons would give us  the best and most up-to-date statistics and treatment plans, which we would then follow for successful treatment. But the world is not like that—there are many ways to skin a cat. There are Different Strokes for Different Folks.

One of the most disconcerting effects of getting sick is that patients are all of a sudden deluged with a host of different treatment options and modalities. Friends tell you what they went through and what they had done; friends of friends tell you their surgical experiences; your doctor friends throw in their two cents’ worth and  your own stable of doctors—all of them specialists in their field and some touted as the best in their town, county, state, country, world—give different and sometimes totally opposite recommendations. You find yourself in a situation where you are sick, in need of help and confused. That makes it scary. You lose all sense of trust in your surgeons and physicians and consider them a rubbish heap full of idiots. The quack cures now sound as good and convincing as traditional medicine’s. After all, neither can really promise an absolute and total “cure,” so why not try the “alternative medicine” methods with their strange and expensive concoctions of parts of the food chain we usually throw away?

It’s a mess. How could this happen? And believe me, it happens every day, to people you know and love, maybe even to yourself.

The art of medicine and surgery

Surgeons and physicians are quick to point out that what they do is “practice”  an “art” and “perform” procedures. The astute reader will see the CYA (“cover your ass” for my non-litigious and non-US readers) aspect of this statement. Surgery is not a science, it’s an art—think big free brush strokes rather than calculus. Surgery is also something we “practice”—until we get it right, I assume. Lawyers also “practice” in the same way.
Surgeons “perform” procedures; some performances are better than others—it depends on the day, really. In many ways, the practice of surgery is similar to playing a sport. You get taught the rules, then you have to practice a lot to get good at it. Some are just better at the art of the sport than others, and you sometimes lose the game no matter how good you are. This analogy is sure to give patients looking for the best, surest, most scientific treatment program no consolation at all. There are often no best answers or treatments.

So why the differences of opinion? Now that we know that there is no set way to perform any cosmetic procedure, you could justly ask “Why not?”  In the next post, I’ll tell you why these differences exist.

Morad Tavallali, M.D., FACS