If you’re suffering from chronic back pain, you may be considering surgery as an option. However, before you decide to undergo spine surgery, it is essential that you ask your surgeon a few key questions. Having your questions answered may allow you to feel more comfortable about the surgery and better prepare you for what to expect during and after the procedure.
1. What are My Non-surgical Options?
Before jumping right into surgery, you need to understand the treatment options available. There may be alternatives that could provide you with relief from your back pain without surgery.
Ask your surgeon about all available options and get their professional opinion on which one may be the best for you. Surgery should always be considered a last resort after exhausting all other options.
If surgery is recommended, getting a second opinion is always a good idea. Talking to another provider may give you a better idea of all your options and help you feel more confident about your decision.
2. What Does Spine Surgery Entail?
If your doctor does recommend surgery, be sure to ask them to go into detail about what the procedure entails. You must understand what will happen during the surgery to avoid surprises. Also, ask them how many of these procedures they have done and ask about the risks.
Be sure to ask questions such as what type of anesthesia will be used, how many incisions will be made, how long the surgery is expected to take, and the recovery time. While each patient is different, your surgeon should be able to give you a general idea.
Learning the surgery’s step-by-step process may help ease any anxiety you may be feeling and allow you to be more prepared.
3. Who Else Will Assist in Performing My Spine Surgery?
In addition to your surgeon, there may be other medical professionals who will be assisting in performing the surgery. Ask your surgeon who else will be in the operating room and their role.
It is also important to ask if any medical students will be present during the surgery. While having students in the operating room is not necessarily a cause for concern, it is something that you should be aware of.
Knowing who will be present during the surgery may ease your mind and allow you to focus on your surgery. After all, you want to be sure that you are in good hands and that everyone involved in your care is experienced.
BE AWARE: Make sure your surgeon is the one doing the actual surgery and not someone else. Some surgeons will run 2 or 3 rooms simultaneously and bounce from room to room while someone else performs the actual surgery. Ensure your surgeon is the one performing the entire procedure and they do not have another overlapping/concurrent surgery at the same time.
4. What Are the Risks and Complications of Spine Surgery?
No surgery is without risks, and it is necessary to be aware of what they are before you undergo back surgery. Be sure to ask your surgeon about the short and long-term risks involved in the surgery.
By knowing the risks, you can make a more informed decision about whether or not surgery is the right choice for you. In addition, having a strong understanding of potential risks and complications may allow you to avoid them or be more prepared to deal with them if they do occur.
5. What are the Post-operative Instructions?
Without proper post-operative care, complications from surgery may occur. Carefully follow your surgeon’s instructions after the procedure to ensure a smooth and successful recovery.
It’s essential to ask your surgeon questions such as:
- How long do I need to stay in the hospital?
- When can I return to work or school?
- What activities should I avoid during my recovery?
It is likely that after your surgery, you will need to take it easy for a while and make some lifestyle changes. Physical therapy and exercise most likely will be recommended to help you regain strength and mobility.
Beware of These Red Flags
In addition to asking your surgeon questions, there are also a few red flags that you should be on the lookout for. These may be signs that you need to consider another surgeon or alternative treatment.
The following are red flags to look out for:
- Your surgeon is not willing to answer your questions or is not taking the time to explain things in detail.
- Your surgeon spends very little face-to-face time with you.
- Ask the office how many patients your surgeon sees in a typical half or full day in the clinic. Some surgeons see anywhere from 50 to 100+ patients in one full day in their clinic. In this case, your surgeon will not be able to spend adequate time with each patient.
- Your surgeon is not up-to-date on the latest procedures and technologies.
- Your surgeon is not willing to consider other treatment options.
- You do not feel comfortable with your surgeon.
- Your surgeon offers 2-4 level fusion right off the bat.
If you notice any red flags, speak up and voice your concerns. After all, it is crucial that you feel confident and comfortable with your surgeon before undergoing surgery.
Your spine surgery has to be performed by the person who can do the best job. Not ANY surgeon can perform the surgery you deserve. So who will give you the best results?
Bad spine surgery can lead to significant lifelong pain and disability. Do NOT choose your surgeon based on whether they are in-network or out-of-network. Choose the best surgeon for yourself and invest appropriately as this is your spine – because it is.
Choose your surgeon based on the actual surgeon, not because of the facility, hospital, or some major academic center.
Contact The Spine Pro
Asking your surgeon questions before having back surgery may allow you to feel more prepared and comfortable with the procedure. If you are experiencing back and/or neck pain and would like to learn more about your treatment options, contact The Spine Pro today. We will be happy to answer any of your questions and help you find the best treatment option for your specific needs.