Getting a Second Opinion / Changing Cardiac Unit
The majority of people will be quite happy with the treatment received from the cardiac unit they are first sent to and will have no wish to consider another unit at least until the young person needs to transfer to adult services. For a few families, however, a change of location or specific concerns about their child's treatment may encourage them to look at another cardiac unit.
Why might you want a second opinion?
- Occasionally the nature of a particular cardiac defect may make surgery quite high risk or even inadvisable, making parents decisions much harder. They may question if the advice given by the doctors relates to their child having Down's Syndrome and need reassurance for their own peace of mind.
- The defect may be particularly rare and parents feel that another unit has more experience of treating it.
- There may be a 'clash of personalities' with the cardiologist or surgeon and despite their experience this makes it difficult for the parents to put their child's life in their hands.
Getting a second opinion
Everyone is entitled to a second opinion about the diagnosis and treatment of a medical condition, so as a parent or guardian you have the right to ask for this (despite what you may initially be told).
There are a number of ways to go about it depending mainly on which is most comfortable for you given your reasons for the request.
- You can make the request to your GP.
- You can ask your paediatrician.
- You can ask the cardiac unit - they may even suggest it to you if their recommendation is against surgery or that surgery is high risk.
Although you could see a different consultant at the same unit, the chances are that you would prefer to see a doctor from a different hospital who can give an independent opinion. You may want to do a bit of research into the different units in order to request referral to a specific one. This might be based on locality, experience with a particular defect or recommendation - this will probably depend at least partly on your reason for asking for a second opinion.
What happens afterwards?
After the meeting with the new cardiologist you have a number of options:
- If your concerns have been addressed and you see no reason to change unit there should be no problem in remaining with the original one and there should be no reflection on treatment.
- If you feel that the new unit can offer a higher level of treatment for your child and they have indicated their willingness to take them on, you can change units.
- You may feel that there is no difference in the level of treatment but you may have more confidence in one consultant and choose the unit for that reason.
Things to consider before getting a second opinion
- If you are seeking reassurance about treatment, this will work if the recommendation is the same but you need to face the possibility that opinions may differ and you may be left trying to decide which route to take.
- How far are you prepared to travel and would you be willing to make that journey for every check-up?
- Do you have concerns about the overall suitability of the unit for your child's treatment or are there specific issues which might be addressed directly without going to a new unit?
Why might you want to change unit?
If you are moving to another area you may well wish to consider changing cardiac unit although some families are happy to continue at the same unit if their child is well and they have infrequent appointments.
Or it may be that your child has other medical problems for which they visit a different hospital and you would like to arrange for all their treatment to be at one hospital.
Finding a new unit
You will need to do some research to find which unit fits your requirements.
It may well be that your current cardiologist can recommend a colleague in a unit close to your new home or a hospital that can treat all of your child's medical problems in one location.
Whatever your reason for looking at a new unit, the Down's Heart Group can provide you with information about different units and put you in touch with parents whose children are patients at your chosen unit.