A Second Opinion Can Be Critical to Heart Health and Recovery

When Stan Billingsley went into a Kentucky hospital for an angiogram, he didn’t expect to be given sedative hypnotic medications (anesthesia). He was mistaken.

“I’ve got a history of not being predictable as to whether or not the anesthesia is going to work on me,” Billingsley says. “I was very surprised to find out, when I woke up, that I had been put to sleep.”

Billingsley had a bad reaction to the sedatives, which caused frightening hallucinations. The last thing he wanted after that experience was more anesthesia. But he was told he had life-threatening blockages in multiple arteries and would need open-heart surgery right away which wouldn’t be possible without more sedation.

Although he was told it would be dangerous for him to leave the hospital, Billingsley and his wife were uncomfortable. “I was under the impression that open-heart surgery was not always necessary,” he says. They didn’t feel like enough questions were being asked, and worried that other treatment options weren’t being considered.

“I wanted a second opinion,” Billingsley says. He consulted Dean Kereiakes, MD, Medical Director for The Christ Hospital Heart and Vascular Center, who had treated his wife for a heart condition.

 Dr. Kereiakes suggested a coronary angioplasty and stents, a much less invasive procedure that involves inflating a tiny balloon in the clogged arteries and placing a stent to hold the artery open. That way, multiple stents could be implanted without the need for anesthesia. The recovery time was also significantly shorter: just two days instead of the 6 to 8 months typical for open-heart surgery.

This time Billingsley felt his concerns had been addressed, and agreed to have the procedure as soon as it could be scheduled. He was fully conscious, talking with Dr. Kereiakes through the whole process, which took a little over an hour.
“I don’t think I gave Stan any sedative or pain medication,” Dr. Kereiakes recalls. “He was left with a bandage. No incisions.” “I felt much better when I talked it over with Dr. Kereiakes,” Billingsley says. “He had a history of doing this type of procedure many times, and didn’t have to knock me out. There was no pain, I had no discomfort whatsoever and stayed awake the whole time.”

Some patients worry about offending their doctor if they question treatment options or seek a second opinion, but “they really owe it to themselves,” Dr. Kereiakes says. My job was to offer an opinion. The patient must then decide what they want, but at least they’re given options.”

“If patients don’t advocate for themselves, don’t expect someone else to do that,” Dr. Kereiakes adds. “Doctors may not think to ask every possible question, and they also may feel pressure to refer within their health network or an out-of-town provider instead of to The Christ Hospital.”

“I have no great criticism of what the first doctor did. He was a very impressive person,” Billingsley says. “They did a good job, but I felt much better going through the second procedure when I went and got a second opinion and discussed in detail my history of anesthesia problems.”

Do you need a second opinion? Get peace of mind. Call 513-713-0999 to schedule your appointment today.