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A tale of seven surgeons

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.322.7299.1433 (Published 09 June 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:1433
  1. Pauline Prior, lecturer in social policy
  1. Belfast

    This is a tale of seven surgeons, all of whom were pleasant and one of whom performed successful surgery on me—the removal of a salivary gland. All of them, however, failed to communicate effectively with me as the patient, and this led to false expectations and unnecessary fears in relation to my recovery.

    The first surgeon diagnosed stones in the salivary gland, ordered an x ray examination, and suggested surgery. The second was the consultant surgeon, who reassured me that this was a simple procedure and that the worst that could happen would be damage to a specific nerve that would result in a lopsided grin—“a very unlikely event,” he said. He did not ask what I did, but I told him that I lectured on health policy. This drew a smile.

    The recovery period was full of unnecessary worry

    So far my impression was that the surgery would be no more traumatic than having a tooth out. But the consultant's secretary told me that I should not fly for …

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