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Seen At 11: 'Simultaneous Surgery' -- What's Really Going On, When You Go Under?

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- You probably assume that when you go under the knife, your surgeon is there for the entire procedure, but that may not always be the case.

So, what's really going on in your operating room?

Moments before going under anesthesia, it's comforting to think your surgeon will be right by your side the whole time.

But, as CBS2's Maurice DuBois reported, as you drift off to sleep, the doctor may be drifting out of your room.

"Most people don't even think to ask their surgeon, 'Oh, while you're operating on me, are you going to be there the entire time or will you be doing another operation?" said reporter Jonathan Saltzman.

It's a practice called 'simultaneous' or 'concurrent surgery.'

"Someone's got to be there to begin the surgery. The specialist will come in at the right moment to do whatever needs to be done, and then they're going to go down the hall and do the same thing," Dr. Arthur Caplan explained.

In 2005, pitcher Bobby Jenks helped the Chicago White Sox break the team's 88-year wait for a World Series win. He went on to play with the Boston Red Sox, and in 2015, told the Boston Globe this was exactly what happened to him.

"I had no idea that there was would have another surgery booked at the same time," he said.

He maintains that his Major League career ended after a botched back operation was performed by a surgeon working in two different rooms.

"The more we looked into it, the more intriguing it got," Saltzman said.

Saltzman is a reporter with the Boston Globe.

He, along with his Spotlight team, started investigating simultaneous surgeries after speaking to several doctors who blew the whistle on the practice.

"In many hospitals around the country, particularly teaching hospitals, it's not uncommon," he said.

After the paper started raising questions, the Senate Finance Committee surveyed 20 teaching hospitals around the country and found 33 percent of their surgeries are double-booked.

"I think it's part of a larger, system-wide problem," attorney Ernest Fronzuto said.

Fronzuto, a medical malpractice attorney, said the practice is all about money.

"It's no different than a doctor who would see four patients in an hour, but now is booking eight patients in an hour," he said.

Except with double, and sometimes even triple booked surgeries, there are a lot more risks -- said Caplan, a bioethicist with the NYU School of Medicine.

"It's not because the surgeon isn't necessarily skilled, they are working with teams, and so if the anesthesia suddenly goes wrong, or a blood transfusion isn't taking place right, they're looking around to say, 'Well, where's the lead surgeon?" Caplan said.

"Now you have another patient, who's now literally left with a resident or fellow who they've never met and otherwise would have never given informed consent," Fronzuto explained.

Saltzman said, "I just did a big follow-up story with a big urologist in New York who is a celebrity surgeon." That surgeon is David B. Samadi, the Chairman of Urology at Lenox Hill.

Saltzman said Samadi is currently under investigation by New York State.

Lenox Hill refused a request for an interview, but released a statement.

"Dr. David Samadi is a world renowned prostate cancer specialist with excellent clinical outcomes," the hospital said.

A spokesperson went on to explain the hospital doesn't actually perform concurrent surgeries, only overlapping, which allow for both patient care and valuable teaching while reducing wait times.

Still, critics said doctors should tell patients their plan up front.

Several studies have shown that simultaneous surgeries do not increase the risk to patients and in some cases, actually improve outcomes.

If you're concerned, ask your doctor before booking surgery.

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