By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If you’ve ever gone in for surgery, most likely you were at least a little bit nervous. After all, you’re putting your life in someone else’s hands. Choosing the best surgeon can reduce your chances of death, complications, or other bad outcomes.

Well for the very first time, nonprofit Consumers’ Checkbook is releasing nationwide ratings of the best and worst surgeons, to help people make smart decisions about their health care, possibly making the difference between life and death.

SurgeonRatings.org provides free access to the ratings of surgeons nationwide based on the outcomes of over 5 million major surgeries done by more than 50,000 doctors. The website compares surgeons for 12 of the most important and high-risk types of surgery.

The ratings are available at no cost by Consumers’ Checkbook and are based on an analysis of detailed records obtained from the federal government.

In addition to giving prospective patients the hard facts about surgeons’ rates of deaths, complications and other bad outcomes, the website gives patients other valuable information such as surgeon recommendations by other doctors and which hospitals each surgeon has used for performing the surgeries and which of those hospitals have the best results.