Rochester, MN (KROC AM News) - Mayo Clinic is stressing the importance of getting a second opinion before starting treatment for a serious or complex medical condition.

Mayo cites a new study that found nearly 90 percent of patients who sought a second opinion from its physicians were given a new or refined diagnosis. In a fifth of the cases in the study, the initial diagnosis was completely changed. Mayo says the second opinion can lead to a change in treatment that is potentially a life-saving decision.

Meanwhile, only 12 percent of patients in the study were told the original diagnosis was correct and complete.

The findings were published in the Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice. The research was led by Dr James Naessens, a health care policy researcher at Mayo.

“Effective and efficient treatment depends on the right diagnosis,” says Dr. Naessens. “Knowing that more than 1 out of every 5 referral patients may be completely [and] incorrectly diagnosed is troubling ─ not only because of the safety risks for these patients prior to correct diagnosis, but also because of the patients we assume are not being referred at all.”

The study also addresses the costs of second opinions. According to Naessens, “Total diagnostic costs for cases resulting in a different final diagnosis were significantly higher than those for confirmed or refined diagnoses, but the alternative could be deadly.”