There is a specialist for almost any illness, symptom or injury. Once the decision has been made that more specialized care is necessary, finding someone you can trust is the most difficult thing to do. As spine surgery is the specialty of this practice, we’ll explain how to pick a spine surgeon.
You can get a referral from your primary, look them up online, or ask friends or relatives for recommendations. You should start with a list. Included in that should be everything that is important for you to know about a physician.
Questions to be answered before the appointment
How many times have they done this surgery?
What percentage of patients seen, actually have surgery?
What is the success rate?
Do they follow a strict protocol, for example, MRI’s, injections, nerve blocks, ablations and then surgery?
Who profits from all of this?
Who owns the radiology practice and the surgery center?
How long will this treatment take?
How much will it cost?
Things to remember while you are looking for a spine surgeon.
You are a patient with a problem, not a number.
You want an orthopedic spine surgeon or a neurosurgeon who has done a Spine Fellowship
If you are not neurologically impaired, conservative care should be tried first.
Look up the tests/ treatments recommended, and the reasoning behind them.
If one epidural steroid injection doesn’t have an effect on your pain, more are unlikely to help. (Don’t waste your time or money).
A nerve block should be done one level at a time in order to see which level is symptomatic. (If they are done all at once, you will never know what is actually causing the pain).
A discogram generally causes more pain that its worth (and often increases disc degeneration, according to studies).
A physician should be the person who reviews your films and history, not an “intake coordinator”. It should also be a physician who recommends surgery.
No matter who you end up seeing, and what they recommend, get a second opinion. This is your only spine, don’t be bulldozed and don’t jump at anything.
Most back pain gets better with 3 months. If you can get through it, you will be much better off. Use ice and anti-inflammatories, not narcotics. Time is your friend.
- Premkumar A, Godfrey W, Gottschalk MB, Boden SD. Red Flags for Low Back Pain Are Not Always Really Red: A Prospective Evaluation of the Clinical Utility of Commonly Used Screening Questions for Low Back Pain. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2018 Mar 7;100(5):368-374. PubMed PMID: 29509613