Getting a medical second opinion for your child's heart condition
What is a pediatric second opinion for heart problems?
Learning that your child has a heart condition may feel overwhelming. A medical second opinion can help you understand all the options and feel confident when making decisions about your child’s care.
A second opinion is the opinion of a doctor other than the one who made the original diagnosis or treatment plan. The second doctor reviews your child’s medical records and examines your child. The doctor then provides an assessment of your child’s condition and recommendations for treatment or further testing. A doctor’s second opinion may:
- Confirm and refine the first doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan
- Disagree with the original opinion and suggest another diagnosis and different treatment options
- Provide more details about your child’s condition
When should I get a second opinion for my child?
As your child’s main advocate, you want as much information as possible about their health and available treatment options. A second opinion provides important details when your child is facing a potentially life-changing – or life-threatening – heart condition.
You may want to get a second opinion doctor for:
- More information. A second opinion empowers you with more knowledge about your child’s condition and the available treatment options. You’ll be better able to make informed decisions when your child’s long-term health is at stake.
- A confirmed diagnosis. A second opinion helps ensure that:
- Your child has had the necessary tests, and doctors have interpreted those tests correctly.
- Doctors have ruled out other possible diagnoses that may have similar symptoms.
- Your child’s diagnosis is accurate.
- Personalized treatment. You want to be sure that the recommended treatment plan for your child is appropriate, accurate and comprehensive. A second opinion gives you the opportunity to find out about all available treatment options to choose the right ones for your child.
- A comparison of treatment plans. A second opinion lets you compare recommendations for your child’s care from more than one doctor. Working with a second doctor helps ensure that your child will receive the most advanced treatments available. A second opinion may also help your child avoid unnecessary, invasive procedures or surgery.
Second opinion for cardiology conditions
If your child has been diagnosed with a heart condition, a second opinion from cardiology experts can provide peace of mind.
At Children’s Health℠, our cardiologists and heart surgeons provide second opinions for children who have received a diagnosis of any heart condition. We also offer second opinions if a doctor has recommended that your child have a heart procedure, such as:
- Cardiac catheterization. Interventional cardiologists guide a catheter (narrow, flexible tube) through a blood vessel to access the heart for treatment. Cardiologists use this minimally invasive procedure to diagnose and treat many heart conditions.
- Electrophysiology procedure. Electrophysiologists (cardiologists who specialize in the heart’s electrical system) also use catheterization for arrhythmias (irregular heart rates or rhythms). Electrophysiology procedures can also help diagnose and treat conditions such as atrial fibrillation.
- Implantation of cardiac devices. Children with some heart conditions may need devices to help their heart maintain a steady beat. Our team members can place these devices using minimally invasive techniques, which help lower infection risk and often allow a quicker recovery.
Other reasons for seeking a second opinion for cardiology include:
- Confirming diagnosis of rare or complex heart conditions
- Comparing treatment plans with those of another doctor or hospital that may have more expertise
- Exploring opportunities for your child to join clinical trials that might not be available elsewhere
- Fulfilling your health insurance company’s requirement for a second opinion before your child begins treatment
Second opinion for surgery
Your child’s doctor may recommend heart surgery or another treatment that carries risk, is invasive or has potentially serious side effects. When the recommendation is as serious as surgery, you may want to get a second opinion doctor to review the treatment plan.
How do you know when to get a second opinion for surgery? A second opinion can help you:
- Explore other treatment options that have fewer risks or side effects
- Decide whether to move forward with a recommended surgery or continue nonsurgical treatment for a heart condition
- Choose between multiple options for heart surgery
You may want to seek a second opinion if your child’s original doctor has recommended:
Second opinion for a treatment plan
Heart conditions that affect children can be difficult to diagnose because they’re rare, and some doctors have limited experience diagnosing and treating them. And many heart conditions share similar symptoms, so it can be hard to distinguish between mild and more serious conditions.
Sometimes, the diagnosis is confirmed, but it isn’t clear what the best treatment plan may be. With an unclear diagnosis or treatment plan, your child might not receive the right treatment at the right time. That’s why it’s important to get a second opinion doctor who has expertise in pediatric heart conditions.
You may want to get a second opinion if a diagnosis or a treatment plan is unclear, such as:
- The diagnosis is unclear, and doctors need to determine a diagnosis so that your child can receive the proper care.
- Your child is receiving treatment but still has symptoms, and you want to consider more effective approaches.
How to get a second opinion from a doctor
Getting a second opinion is an important way to take an active role in your child’s health care. A second opinion helps you feel confident in the decisions you’re making for your child, even if their condition is not life-threatening.
You may feel hesitant to get a second opinion out of fear of offending your child’s doctor or concerns about health insurance coverage. Knowing how to get a second opinion from a doctor can help. These simple steps can make the process smooth and effective:
- Speak with your child’s current doctor. You may feel awkward about asking your child’s doctor about a second opinion. But most doctors welcome other doctors’ opinions and may even suggest it themselves, especially when the recommendation is surgery. You can start the conversation by asking:
- Before my child begins treatment, I’d like to get a second opinion. Can you help me with that?
- If you had a child with the same heart condition that my child has, which other doctors would you ask for a second opinion?
- Get a referral for another doctor. If your child’s current doctor didn’t recommend another doctor, you can get a referral by:
- Asking your health insurance company for doctors who accept your plan
- Contacting nearby hospitals, clinics or medical schools for a referral to a heart specialist
- Searching the websites of heart-related medical associations that provide searchable databases of specialists
- Find out about insurance coverage. Some health insurance plans require a second opinion and cover it fully. Contact your health insurance company to make sure your plan covers second opinions. Ask:
- If the plan has any restrictions, such as covering only second opinions with in-network doctors
- If it covers appointments whether they are in person, by phone or on a video conference
- If you must pay out-of-pocket costs for visits, tests, treatments and any other fees
What we offer for second opinions in heart care
At Children’s Health, The Heart Center is nationally ranked for pediatric cardiology and heart surgery. Our team of cardiologists and heart surgeons have expertise in every type of heart condition that affects children, from newborns through young adults.
The pediatric heart team provides second opinions for children diagnosed with any type of heart condition. We want to make the process accessible for you, and we offer:
- Second opinions without referral. You don’t need to have a doctor’s referral to get a second opinion at Children’s Health. You can contact us directly to schedule an appointment with one of our heart doctors. Your child’s doctor can also refer your child.
- Fast scheduling. We can usually meet you within a few days of your first contact with us. In serious or emergency cases, we can immediately work with you or your child’s doctor the same day.
- Virtual and in-person appointments. Our doctors can meet with you via phone, video call or in person, at your convenience. Depending on your child’s age, they may or may not attend a phone or video call. After the initial visit, we see you and your child in our offices so that the doctor can examine your child.
- Multiple appointments in one visit. If your child needs to see more than one doctor, we can often schedule those appointments all during one visit. We also try to schedule any necessary tests on the same day.
- Coordination with referring doctors. We send the second opinion to you and any doctors you choose, such as your child’s current pediatrician or pediatric cardiologist. If you choose to have your child treated at Children’s Health, we keep your child’s referring doctors up to date on their progress, test results and treatments that we provide.
What to expect with second opinions at The Heart Center
Here’s what you can expect in our second opinion process:
- Request for second opinion. You contact us by phone, email or fax to ask us for a second opinion. We call you back to learn more about your child, the original diagnosis and your questions. We also get your permission to obtain your child’s medical records from their current doctor.
- Review of medical records. We contact your child’s doctor to obtain the original diagnosis, recommendations and your child’s medical records. Before your first appointment, our doctor reviews all the information, which can include:
- Written opinion and recommendations from your child’s current doctor
- Your child’s medical records, including current medications
- Reports from your child’s diagnostic tests, along with the original testing data, such as the images from an echocardiogram
- First appointment. Your first visit can take place on a phone or video call or in person. If your child is very young, they might not need to attend the first appointment. Based on our review of the medical records, we discuss with you what your child needs at this point. These needs could include:
- Additional testing, only if absolutely necessary
- Appointments with other heart specialists for conditions such as congenital heart diseases, heart failure and arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythms)
- Second appointment. We schedule an in-person visit so you can bring your child in for a physical exam with our doctor. If your child needs tests or visits with other specialists, we can often schedule them all during the same visit.
- Written second opinion. Our doctor provides a letter with our findings about the diagnosis, recommended and alternative treatment options, and next steps. We send the second opinion to you and the doctors that you specify to receive it.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you’re considering getting a second opinion for your child’s care, you likely have many questions. Here, we’ve answered FAQs about second options for a pediatric heart condition.
Why is a second opinion important?
If your child has received a diagnosis of a heart condition, getting a second opinion helps provide peace of mind. You’ll learn more about your child’s condition and all available treatment options. A second opinion for a child’s heart condition helps you make informed decisions about your child’s care with confidence.
What kinds of doctors provide second opinions?
- General cardiologists. Doctors who specialize in evaluating, diagnosing and treating heart diseases
- Cardiothoracic surgeons. Surgeons who perform open-heart surgery and minimally invasive cardiac procedures for a variety of heart diseases
- Interventional cardiologists. Cardiology specialists who perform cardiac catheterization, which use narrow tubes with miniature instruments
- Electrophysiologists. Cardiologists who specialize in care for the heart’s electrical system, which helps regulate heart rates and rhythms
- Heart failure cardiologists. Cardiologists who specialize in nonsurgical care for children who have heart failure
Does health insurance cover second opinions?
Yes, health insurance plans almost always cover the costs of getting a second opinion. Some plans even require a second opinion and cover it fully. Please check with your insurance provider for more details about your coverage.
Where do I take my child for our in-person second opinion visit?
Our doctors’ offices are in the Children’s Medical Center Dallas, Children’s Health Specialty Center 1 in Plano, and Children’s Health Specialty Center Park Cities. Get addresses, maps and directions to our Heart Center locations.
Second opinions are also available at Pediatric Heart Specialists, a practice owned by Children's Health with offices in Arlington, Dallas, Denton, Ennis, Flower Mound, Longview, Lufkin, Mount Pleasant, Plano, Rockwall and Tyler.
How long will it take to receive a second opinion?
The timeframe depends on the heart diagnosis your child has, what tests they may need and whether they need to see more than one doctor. Our doctors can meet you as quickly as needed, usually within a few days of your first contact with us. In emergency cases, we can work with you or your child’s doctor immediately.
We first meet with you via phone or video call or in-person visit. After we obtain your child’s medical records, you bring your child for an in-person visit so the doctor can examine them.
We provide our written second opinion usually within a few days after your in-person visit.
We’re coming from out of town. Can you help with lodging and transportation?
Social workers at Children’s Health can provide assistance with lodging. Find out more about travel and lodging options near Children’s Health and other resources for patient families.
How should I prepare for the first phone or video appointment?
During your first conversation, our doctors will ask you details about your child’s condition and medical history, including:
- Your child’s condition, including a description of the diagnosis and symptoms your child is experiencing
- Your child’s primary care or referring doctor’s name and contact information
- Locations where your child has received care for this condition
- Your goals for the second opinion evaluation
What should I bring to in-person appointments for a second opinion?
Our heart team will contact your child’s doctor to obtain medical records, test results, treatment reports and other details. If any records are not available in the electronic records, we may ask you to bring them.
As you prepare for your family’s appointments for a second opinion, consider bringing certain items, such as:
- Note-taking materials. During your appointments, you’ll hear a lot of detailed information that can be hard to remember. Bring something for taking notes, such as paper and pen or a device such as a smartphone or tablet.
- A list of your questions. Before you come to the appointment, spend a little time thinking of questions you’d like us to answer for you. And don’t be shy about asking questions. There are no dumb questions.
What should I do once I have the second opinion?
When you come to our heart specialists for a second opinion, it doesn’t mean that you have to transfer your child’s care to us. We provide second opinions to help ensure that your child receives the right care – avoiding unneeded procedures and reducing the risk of complications.
Most often, we can confirm that your child’s doctor’s original diagnosis and treatment plan. Children often recover better when they receive care close to home from a pediatric cardiologist who knows them well.
We also send our evaluation to the doctor(s) of your choice, such as your child’s pediatrician or the doctor who did the original diagnosis. If your child’s doctors have questions about our second opinion, our doctors can talk with them by phone.
If you decide to bring your child to us for treatment, we provide evaluation, diagnosis and treatment for all pediatric heart conditions. Learn more about our pediatric cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery programs at The Heart Center.
I’m a doctor. How do I refer a patient to The Heart Center?
We’re happy to partner with you in caring for your patients. As we work with them to provide a second opinion, you remain their primary care physician.
Children’s Health makes it easy to refer patients to The Heart Center and track their progress. Learn more about how to refer a patient to Children’s Health.
The Heart Center at Children’s Health
- Dallas - Medical District Drive
- Park Cities
Pediatric Heart Specialists (PHS)
PHS Satellite offices: Arlington, Ennis, Flower Mound, Longview, Lufkin, Mount Pleasant, Rockwall