Choosing the right surgeon to conduct spine surgery is one task that one should not undergo haphazardly. This type of surgery is only necessary in certain cases; there are many options besides going under the knife. Therefore, it is vital to understand fully all options available. Often there are conservative alternatives to a surgical procedure. Also,it is always wise to get a second or third opinion before settling on the surgical option.
Once the decision is made, the selection of a surgeon begins. Often, both orthopedic surgeons and neurological surgeons can perform this surgery. Many doctors choose a specialty, so look for one that specializes in spinal conditions. Neurosurgeons often deal with spinal conditions that have developed over time, while orthopedic surgeons treat disorders such as scoliosis. However, both may have received special training to perform certain types of surgery, so it is important to discover what type of surgeries the doctor performs and how much training they have had in regards to certain spinal conditions.
Another factor is how much spine surgery the doctor performs. A doctor who deals with spinal surgery only occasionally might not bet the best fit in comparison to one who spends more than fifty percent of their time performing these surgeries. The doctor should also be board certified in spinal surgery.
Be sure to ask a lot of questions about the surgery and possible alternatives. If the physician refuses to consider options or does not agree with the idea of getting a second opinion, think twice before moving forward. A doctor should not use high-pressure tactics or try to scare someone into having this delicate surgery. Find out what will happen if the condition is not treated and also the long-term effects of surgery, such as further physical problems or the possibility of a second or third surgery in the future.
It could be helpful to ask other patients their opinion of the doctor, and not patients that are referred by the office staff. Find out how their surgery went, if their questions were answered fully, and if they felt comfortable with the doctor and the staff. Trust intuitions; misgivings should not be ignored. A doctor who refuses to answer questions or gives vague answers may not be the best choice.
It is okay to ask who will be assisting the doctor during the surgery. This issue is especially important if students will be helping, as some patients are not comfortable with this idea. Make sure whoever is assisting is also qualified to perform this type of surgery. A patient should also find out about any side effects of the surgery, possible complications and risks, and what the course of action is if another problem is discovered during the procedure.
Also, ask about what will happen in the days and weeks after surgery. It is useful to know how long the hospital stay will be, if additional help at home will be needed, and how long until normal activities can be resumed. Patients who are working will want this information to arrange time off until a return to work is possible.
After your surgery, make sure you are aware of the proper procedures that you will need to follow. Dr. Irby has a great list of post op. instructions that may help you recover quicker.
Spinal health is an important part of the quality of life. Do not undergo a procedure without being comfortable with the doctor, the process, and potential long-term effects. Freedom from pain is a desirable goal but do ensure that everything possible has been done to make the procedure go smoothly and result in a complete recovery.