Is the American College of Surgeons Online Communities a safe and useful venue to ask for surgical advice?

Surgical Social Media Study Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Many surgeons rely on the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Community Forums for advice on managing complex patients. Our objective was to assess the safety and usefulness of advice provided on the most popular surgical forum. Methods: Overall, 120 consecutive, deidentified clinical threads were extracted from the General Surgery community in reverse chronological order. Three groups of three surgeons (mixed academic and community perspectives) evaluated the 120 threads for unsafe or dangerous posts. Positive and negative controls for safe and unsafe answers were included in 20 threads, and reviewers were blinded to their presence. Reviewers were free to access all online and professional resources. Results: There were 855 unique responses (median 7, 2–15 responses per thread) to the 120 clinical threads/scenarios. The review teams correctly identified all positive and negative controls for safety. While 58(43.3%) of threads contained unsafe advice, the majority (33, 56.9%) were corrected. Reviewers felt that a there was a standard of care response for 62/120 of the threads of which 50 (80.6%) were provided by the responses. Of the 855 responses, 107 (12.5%) were considered unsafe/dangerous. Conclusion: The ACS Community Forums are generally a safe and useful resource for surgeons seeking advice for challenging cases. While unsafe or dangerous advice is not uncommon, other surgeons typically correct it. When utilizing the forums, advice should be taken as a congregate, and any single recommendation should be approached with healthy skepticism. However, social media such as the ACS Forums is self-regulating and can be an appropriate method for surgeons to communicate challenging problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5041-5045
Number of pages5
JournalSurgical endoscopy
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020


  • Discussion boards
  • Forums
  • Online communities
  • Online forums
  • Online platforms
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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