Scientific Studies vs. Real Life Experiences: Why I Recommend The Doctors I Do

Written in 2008 by Vicky Marlow  

Doctors have a vast array of scientific studies that they can reference to their advantage even though they may not match their own personal outcomes. When I heard Mr. Treacy speak at a conference I attended, his opening statement was a joke about how the one thing he has learned from studies is that you can really make them turn out pretty much any way you want them to. The response was a thunderous laugh from the huge audience of orthopedic surgeons.

All we have as patients, ones that are here to actually and genuinely help other patients, are the thousands of posts we read from real life people and the countless phone calls and emails received and replied to OFFLINE, again, helping and working with REAL LIFE people. Many of the veterans including myself have taken our posts offline due to certain personalities that were allowed to constantly cause problems by attacking and starting fights on another support group (SH).  Those flamers seem to get a kick out of stirring things up and causing confrontations, so I started up the new group where that sort of bickering and arguing is NOT tolerated and not allowed.  But unfortunately we lost a lot of great posters that contributed SO much back in the day.  Hopefully we will build that up again in our Support group from now on.

I received an email from a friend and he worded it much better than I, so I am going to draw from some of what he said to me below.

"What some people fail to consider is that there is a very large amount of offline activity. First and foremost, because SH is such a relentlessly upbeat forum, people with problems often feel like they can't post when their resurfacings have gone bad. It's a very small number that come back to tell about their pain or their revisions. But they are out there."
Both Alan (one of the veterans that left the other group) and I help a lot of people offline. We have access to a lot of stories that most people never hear about, and we remain ethical enough not to post details about other people's problems or about the doctors involved.
The world is not as black-and-white as some would like to believe it as. One doesn't need a statistically-backed study published in a peer-reviewed journal to know when something is wrong with a particular doctor or approach.

I keep track of a lot of data, not only posts, but private emails and phone calls as well. Currently I speak to at least one patient a day on the phone and sometimes up to 6 patients a day.

To give an example, I spoke to and worked with 4 patients and know of 2 others of one particular surgeon who will remain unnamed. The outcomes have been far from positive, several needing revision surgeries to THR’s and a couple ready to have theirs revised. You will never see me recommending this surgeon. Have these patients posted on SH? Yes, prior to their surgeries and prior to their problems. Does anyone on SH know about these problems? Certainly not, as evidenced by reading the board. Has this doctor had some positive outcomes? Sure, but considering this particular surgeon has not done that many resurfacings, this is NOT a surgeon I will ever recommend. Is that data published anywhere? Absolutely not. Will there be a patient that posts on SH about having a good outcome? Absolutely, but you tell me, if you were sitting in my shoes, would you look at 6 failures that you personally know of in less than 100 procedures would you recommend this doctor?  Or would you suggest other surgeons to new patients?

On the other side of the coin, I have met many doctors in person and I can see and hear the difference between those that have passion in their voice about hip resurfacings and can tell that they genuinely care about the outcome of their patients and advancing their knowledge and skills to better serve their patients versus those that I can genuinely tell they only care about the outcome of their practices.

I gather a ton of data in many ways, from patients, reading stories from patients, from the doctors themselves, mingling with many of the surgeons at the functions I attend, participating in cadaver labs, (4 as of 8/11) observed one REAL live surgery in full scrubs, etc. Out of all of this gathered information over the past five plus years, I have come to my own conclusions. Those conclusions are constantly evolving with the more I learn. Are they right or wrong? No, they are just my own opinions based on education and experience, and some of it is based on gut instincts as well. I am a patient advocate. I try to stay as neutral as possible, but I always look out for the patient’s best interest first, not the doctor’s best interest or any manufacturers, but the patient’s best interests.

I suggest certain doctors because I see their outcomes and talk to their patients. I don’t suggest certain doctors because I see their outcomes and talk to their patients. Is this a scientific study? Absolutely not. But if you only believe in scientific studies and discard the real life experiences of people that have become your friends as fellow surface hippies, then what is the point? Which would you tend to believe? A fellow surface hippy calling in tears (happy or sad) or a scientific paper or study?

LBHR Dr. Bose Dec 01 05