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10 Things to Consider When Choosing a Spine Surgeon

When you have a spine condition that requires surgery, there is a lot to consider. Perhaps, the most important consideration is the physician who will be performing the surgery. Obviously, you want a highly-skilled and experienced spine surgeon, but there are other things to contemplate, as well.

We’ve created a list of 10 considerations to explore before you undergo spine surgery. By taking the time to ask questions and research your options, you’ll be taking an active role in achieving the best possible outcome.

1) Training
Yes, it’s OK to ask about university degrees, internships, residencies, and fellowship programs. By learning about where a spine surgeon went to school and what they studied, you can get a better understanding of their interests and specialties.

The highest level of training available is called a “fellowship” which means that the surgeon has spent at least a year working with senior spine experts after residency training. Many neurosurgeons in fellowship programs split the year between training in both spine and brain surgery.

2) Experience
How many years has the physician been performing spine surgery? Not every qualified surgeon will have 20+ years of experience, but it’s important to find one who has a strong history of performing the type of surgery that you require.

3) Accreditations
Many neurosurgeons are certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery. You will also often see the F.A.C.S. designation after a neurosurgeon’s name. This means that he or she is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and meets the ACS’ standards in the areas of education and training, competence as a surgeon, professional credentials and ethical conduct.

4) Philosophy
Some spine surgeons are more conservative than others when it comes to treatment. In general, those who specialize in the most minimally invasive treatments and procedures have lower complication rates for their patients.

5) Specialties
There are many new advances when it comes to spine surgery. The top surgeons are now specializing in innovations such as ultrasound and radiofrequency technologies.

6) Rapport
Much can be learned by having a consultation with a spine surgeon. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The surgeon should take the time to explain the treatment to you and your family. It’s also a good idea to evaluate the office staff. Were they cooperative and courteous? Remember, you’ll be dealing with the staff as much or more than you will be with the surgeon.

7) Location
Where will the surgery be performed? This should be a location that is convenient for both you and those who will be caring for you post surgery.

8) Patient Outcomes
It’s vital that you understand the potential risks of the surgery you’re considering. A surgeon should be willing to provide you with this information, as well as their specific success rates.

9) Follow- up Care
Will you be given guidelines or a plan for follow- up care? Who will manage this care? Will you be returning to the same doctor? These are all questions to ask.

10) Second Opinions
Most physicians welcome patients to get second opinions, and many will even refer patients to other doctors to obtain them. The more information you can gather, the more confident you and your family will be when it comes time to make a decision on surgery.

Yes, there is a lot to consider. Take your time and get answers to all of your questions and only work with a spine surgeon with whom you feel comfortable. The best surgeons are those who are open, honest, and dedicated to truly partnering with you to ensure you get the best possible results.

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