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How to Pick a Spine Surgeon

Patients who are faced with selecting a qualified spine surgeon may have many questions. This is perfectly normal and choosing the right surgeon is a very important step in the treatment process. There are plenty of spine surgeons in the NJ area, but how does one go about narrowing down the search and finding the one that is right for their particular situation and circumstances? There are several areas that should be considered and the answers to these questions will help individuals locate the best spine surgeon for them.

Does the spine surgeon adequately answer your questions?

In the vast majority of cases, spine surgery is an elective procedure. However, there are some times when spine surgery is essential. The individual is the only one who is familiar with how severe the pain is that they have to endure. The surgeon should be willing to educate the patient and offer valuable decision-making information. They should provide the patient with a full range of available and reasonable options and describe all the possible scenarios. The surgeon should also explain how difficult the procedure is, its potential benefits and what all recovery will likely entail. It is perfectly normal to have tons of questions about a procedure; and a good spine surgeon will take the necessary time to explain the details of the surgery.

How experienced is the spine surgeon?

It’s important to find out how much of the surgeon’s practice is specifically devoted to spine surgery. The surgeon who is focusing mostly on spinal surgery is likely to be much more adept at performing the procedure. They are also more likely to be familiar with the latest surgical and technological techniques than those who do not perform spine surgery regularly. A good benchmark would be that the surgeon spends at least half of their practice devoted to spine treatment and procedures. It’s also important to consider how many years of actual surgical experience the spine surgeon has.

Which is better a neurosurgeon or an orthopedic surgeon for spine surgery?

Every type of specialty has its own focuses training and both types of spine surgeons are qualified to perform most of the major types of spine surgery. However, a neurosurgeon is more likely to be better suited for surgeries which deal with tumors and an orthopedic surgeon is better suited for surgeries dealing with deformities. In many cases, neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons work together with a patient and oftentimes work together in the operating room as well. Both types of surgeons must complete surgical residency requirements as set forth by their state and both specialties offer fellowship programs dealing with spinal procedures. This means that each of them likely had an additional year of specific and intensive training with spine surgery. It is important to make certain that the surgeon selected is board certified or board eligible in neurological or orthopedic surgery.

Are there some specific questions to ask the spine surgeon?

Patients usually have a lot of questions before even electing to go through with spine surgery, specific questions about the surgeon and even more questions after they decide to have the surgical procedure. Prior to the choosing surgery patients may ask if there are any alternatives, why is the procedure recommended and what happens if they do not have the procedure at all. Questions which are specifically about the surgeon might include:

  • How many times does the surgeon do this particular procedure every year?
  • Has the surgeon been fellowship trained? (This is especially important for spinal fusion)
  • Who will be able to assist the surgeon?

How can a patient feel at ease with their choice of spine surgeon?

The bare minimum requirement when choosing a spine surgeon should be to ensure that they are board certified. It is perfectly acceptable to ask the doctor this question and this information can also be accessed online. Here are a few tips to help patients feel more comfortable about selecting a spine surgeon:

  • Can the spine surgeon tailor treatment plans to be appropriate for an individual’s condition?
  • Make certain that the patient and surgeon have open communication
  • Be sure that there is a rapport and the surgeon is trustworthy
  • Check on the surgeon’s published papers or academic credentials

It’s important to not depend on advertising alone when choosing a spine surgeon. Use every available resource like friends, the internet, and a primary care physician to help in making this very important decision.