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Urologists are doctors who treat diseases of the male and female urinary tract and of the male reproductive organs. Urologists provide general health maintenance, surgical intervention, and preventative medicine.
As of 2015, there are about 11,700 practicing urologists in the United States.
To become a urologist, doctors are required to graduate from medical school with either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.). Urology is a specialty field of medicine that requires knowledge of surgical techniques along with specialized knowledge of urology.
After graduating from medical school, aspiring urologists will enter into 5-year residency programs. Typically the first 1-2 years of these programs focus on general surgery, and the last 3-4 years focus on urology. These residencies allow urologists to learn basic surgical techniques for a variety of conditions as well as common urology conditions like male infertility, kidney stones, and congenital deformities.
Urologists can also choose to sub-specialize in a field of urology with a 1-2 year fellowship after residency in one of seven areas:
- Pediatric urology
- Urologic oncology (cancer)
- Female urology
- Renal transplantation
- Male infertility
- Calculi (urinary tract stones)
All doctors need to pass a state-level exam to practice medicine. The requirements will vary by state. A medical license enables a doctor to practice any type of medicine but does not show that a doctor has qualifications in one specific area.
Urologists who complete these requirements become eligible for board certification through the American Board of Urology. Board certification is optional, but it universally recognized as a necessary step for many doctors both to assure their patients of their qualifications and to help with the doctor’s professional development.
Urologists will need to maintain board certification through continued learning classes, professional development assessments, and eventually by re-taking the lengthy certification exam.
Where Urologists Work
Urologists work in both private and group practice settings. Patients can be referred to see a urologist by their primary care physicians, or they may seek specialty care from a urologist themselves. Urologists will work with a variety of other doctors (oncologist when treating cancer, gynecologist when treating pain) and will make up one part of the patient’s health care team. Surgical procedures make up a large part of a urologist’s treatments, so many urologists will work out of hospital settings.
How Urologists Help People
Urologists diagnose, treat, and prevent conditions in the male and female urinary tract –-including the kidneys, urethra, ureter, bladder, and adrenal glands- and also treat conditions of the male reproductive organs. Urology is a broad field that is usually considered a surgical specialty, but urologists also use non-surgical means to treat their patients.
Urologists treat a variety of conditions such as:
Stones: Stones, or solid deposits made of minerals, can develop in the kidney and ureters. Urologists can help remove these stones through surgery or through extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, a procedure that uses high-energy sound waves to break up the stones.
Enlarged prostate: An overgrowth of cells in the prostate causes urination and bladder problems. About one-third of men over 50 experience an enlarged prostate. Urologists will treat patients using medications or minimally invasive procedures like interstitial laser therapy that uses a scope to deliver heat to destroy tissue.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs): About 50% of all women will suffer a UTI at some point in their lives. Urologists will administer medication to treat the condition.
Cancer: Urologists diagnose and treat cancers of the bladder, kidney, prostate, and testes
They also treat a comprehensive list of male sexual dysfunctions. Urologists also treat female sexual dysfunctions, but women can also choose to see a gynecologist about many issues.
Urologists may specialize in pediatrics and treat conditions specifically in children, like bedwetting. When treating children urologists often work with congenital urology conditions (conditions present at birth) like hypospadias (a male urethra defect), or epispadias (a bladder and urethra defect).
The scope of treatments that urologists offer means that patients will see these doctors for a wide range of issues, so urologists may refer their patients to other medical specialists.
Medical Negligence and Urologists
Malpractice in urology will relate to whether the doctor treated the patient at the standard of care, meaning the doctor treated the patient the same way any other reasonable doctor would treat the patient. Studies have shown that the most common malpractice claims in urology relate to:
- Failure to diagnose
- Surgical errors
- Post-operative errors
- Medication administration error
Failure to diagnose is one of the most common urological malpractice errors, and it most often occurs with cancer diagnoses. Prostate cancer is the leading cancer for men in the United States but it is often misdiagnosed. When health care professionals make mistakes that lead to missed cancer diagnoses, cancer is left to spread and patients cannot always recover.
Many of the treatments that urologist provide are surgical. Surgical errors can occur during procedures like endoscopic surgery (minimally invasive surgery that uses thing scopes), vasectomies, circumcision, and biopsies.
Urologists should provide post-operative care to their patients to make sure they are stable before they leave the hospital or office (in the case of outpatient care), and should provide clear instructions to their patients about the next steps in their treatment plan.
Some of the most common errors among all doctors are communication errors. If one doctor orders a test and fails to share it with other doctors, important findings like cancer can go undiagnosed. Urologists will work as one part of a larger care team for a patient, and need to make sure that other health professionals are knowledgeable about the patient’s condition.
Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorneys
Missed cancer diagnoses and surgical errors can cause serious suffering and permanent injury for patients. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury under the care of a urologist, call Gilman & Bedigian today to schedule a free consultation.
Our attorneys will complete a comprehensive examination about your injuries and medical treatment and will hold medical professionals responsible for harm. Call (800) 529-6162 today to schedule a free consultation and to learn more about your legal options.