published Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Phillips: Questions to ask before OKing medical implant

by Ellen Phillips

Q: I don’t think you’ve approached the issue of medical procedures and devices and how to keep safe. I’m soon to have a pain pump implanted and want to be sure I ask all the right questions.

— Isaac Inquiry

A Dear Mr. Inquiry: The ECRI Institute which works to improve patient care offers the following stay-safe suggestions to ask your physician before giving permission for implantation of any kind.

• Have you exhausted all nonsurgical methods?

• Have any cases of serious harm been reported to the FDA?

• How many procedures have you performed using this device? (As with any invasive surgery, the more he or she has performed this type, the higher the chances of success for you. Otherwise, find a more experienced surgeon.)

• How long has this piece of equipment been used? (It’s normally better to go with a model that’s been around awhile.)

• What percentage of your patients has to return to correct a problem with this apparatus? What is the failure rate? (Run for the hills if the doctor can’t or won’t answer this question.)

• How does the manufacturer notify you and you alert me if a problem arises?

• What symptoms or side effects should I be on the look out for if any threats arise from its usage?

I asked all these questions of two surgeons before I underwent fusion surgery last year. The first doctor told me he uses cadaver tissue which, upon further research — and listening to a “60 Minutes” report — I decided against. The second surgeon answered all my questions satisfactorily, and my neck is now the proud owner of a metal plate and screws, as well as a combination of my own bone and synthetic tissue.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at under Local Business.

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