Facing Surgery? Get the Facts
If you are diagnosed with a back disorder and your physician recommends surgery, there are several things you should know and do before scheduling a procedure. First and foremost, if you are not sure surgery or the specific surgical treatment recommended is right for you, get another opinion. You do not have to change doctors, and if nothing else it may help put your mind at ease. It is recommended that you do not share with the second physician the diagnosis and recommendations of the first physician in order to insure the integrity of the second physician's opinion. Often physicians will feel compelled to agree with the opinion of the first physician.
In the meantime, you should make it your business to become as educated as possible about your back disorder, treatment options and the pros and cons of each recommended procedure. Check out books, talk to people who have had the same type of disorder and treatment that is recommended, search the internet and visit chat rooms. You will often find people who have been through treatment and can tell you first hand about their experiences. However, always keep in mind that everyone is different and the results of one patient (even with the same physician) may not be the same for you.
You can and should inquire about your surgeon's level of training. The highest level of training available is a fellowship. This usually means that the physician has spent a year working at a spine specialty center seeing complex spine patients with senior spine experts. This fellowship program typically relates to orthopaedic surgeons rather than neurosurgeons. A fellowship for neurosurgeons may be a year split between training in spine and brain surgery.
The difference between orthopaedic surgeons and neurosurgeons is that orthopaedic surgeons generally concentrate on bone and neurosurgeons generally concentrate on nerves. As we know, the spine involves both of these elements. Many spine centers include both specialties and a multi-disciplinary approach to spine surgery and rehabilitation is often beneficial.
Before you visit your physician for a surgical consultation, make a list of questions. Click here for a list of suggested questions. Be sure to add any additional questions that are relevant to your situation, no matter how trivial they may seem. Once you get your answers, do some research and make sure they are the right ones for you.