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Valley doctor: Second opinions, clarity key in child surgeries

PHOENIX — As the story develops over whether a 13-year-old Oakland, Calif., girl who is brain dead from tonsillectomy complications will be pulled from life support, Valley parents might be wondering if something similar could happen to their child.

Even tonsillectomies, the third most common surgery for children, have an inherent risk, but that doesn’t mean parents can’t help improve the odds for their child.

Dr. Jerald Altman, chairman of the surgery department at Arrowhead Hospital in Glendale, said if a doctor recommends surgery, always get a second opinion.

“I love second opinions,” Altman said. “I always tell parents that if a physician gets upset that you’re seeking a second opinion, you do not want to see that doctor.”

Altman added that while there are risks with any surgery, parents should always make sure the doctor has clear reasons for why a surgery is necessary.

“Talk to the doctor about what their reasons [are] for suggesting tonsillectomy for their child,” Altman explained. “[Then] ask their pediatrician or their family doctor about the specialist.”

Altman also said the Arizona Medical Board is a good resource to look up information about doctors.