When considering surgery, every patient should keep in mind that spine surgery is almost always an elective procedure, and there are very few times that spine surgery is absolutely essential.
You are the only one that knows how your pain is, and the decision to proceed with surgery is your decision and yours alone!.
The surgeon’s role is to educate you and assist with the decision making process, providing you with information about your full range of options, and describing what is technically possible, the difficulty and risk of the procedure and potential benefits. Therefore, it is important that you select a surgeon who is helpful in providing you the information you need to decide whether or not to proceed with surgery.
IS HE EXPERIENCED?
A very important factor is the amount of the surgeon’s practice devoted to spine surgery. A physician who focuses on spinal surgery is going to be far more adept and current in newer surgical techniques than the one who performs spinal surgery only occasionally. Feel free to ask the surgeon for his CV, which can be very informative and always make sure you do your homework and check that what his CV states, to be correct, peace of mind can be a main factor when choosing a surgeon.
Before surgery you should ask for the specific anatomic lesion being addressed. What is the natural course of the condition if left untreated? Why does the surgeon recommend this specific procedure? What are the alternatives to surgery? What is the risk/benefit ratio; the risk of a bad outcome as weighed against the chance of a good outcome? What are the long-term consequences of a proposed procedure; will it lead to additional problems later on? What will the procedure entail? What are the risks and possible complications and how are they treated? How will I feel after the surgery? How many days will I spend in the hospital? What is the expected postoperative course, such as a physical therapy; time to return to work, return to full activity?
THINK IT OVER
At the first consultation, the surgeon should recommend a second visit, giving you time to think about your options and write down additional questions. In general, your surgeon should be educational, describe the risks/benefits and possible implications of the surgery he is recommending, and state the reason for the specific type of surgery. If the surgeon is not open to your questions, CONSIDER GETTING A SECOND OPINION in order to feel confident that you have selected the right surgeon to do your procedure.
If he says that he can cure you indicates that the surgeon may not be acting realistically or giving full informed consent. The chance of having a good or excellent outcome of spinal surgery is at best around 90%. That is for herniated disk surgery. Much lower figures of about 70% are seen in degenerated disk disease and spinal stenosis. It means that there is about a 20% risk of not getting better and also a small risk of it getting worse. Therefore he should investigate conservative treatment options, including reviewing your previous attempts at conservative care to ensure that they were carried out appropriately.
Many surgeons will be qualified in the following: