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Questions For the Spine Surgeon

Questions For the Spine Surgeon

Have you been told you need Spinal Surgery?  If possible,  many patients choose to get a second opinion.  But, many patients seem unprepared to ask appropriate questions.  If I were to seek a Spine Surgery Second opinion,  here is the steps I would take.

1.  Go with a trusted friend or family member.  Often times,  secondary to the pain,  it is already difficult to travel alone.  But,  when also asked to listen and formulate an opinion,  a second person who keeps you on track for the information is essential.

2. Do your homework on the Surgeon you will see.  Before the office visit,  get information on the background of the surgeon.  When did (s)he graduate from medical school?  How long has (s)he been in practice?  Does (s)he have a history of moving from place to place, or is there a history of longevity at one location?  Where does the surgeon operate?  What is the reputation of the surgical facility?  Spend some time researching the surgeon on the internet.  While not all the information may be correct or current,  you might be able to get some information on the surgeon, and the types of surgery usually performed by that surgeon.  If you are going for a second surgical opinion,  but that physician really does not specialize in your situation,  consider changing the person for the second opinion.  One factor that can be significant to some is whether that particular surgeon participates in your insurance plan.  While finances are important,  the outcome of the surgery and the comfort of the information may be even more important.  If you have a particular surgeon you want to see,  please see that person.  Even if the surgeon is not on your plan,  the peace of mind knowing that the planned surgery is appropriate is worth the extra expense.  It is after all,  a second opinion.   You just want to know that the planned surgery by the surgeon on your plan is reasonable to your choosen second opinion consultant.

3. Make sure to bring all the diagnostic studies needed to evaluate the need of the surgery.  That will include the actual images of the X-rays,  CT scans,  MRI’s, etc.  Just the reports by themselves are not enough.   To make an analogy,  these studies are the blueprint of your anatomy.  Decisions for the type of surgery are based on the anatomy.  While reports may indicate a finding,  the description of the findings often differ from each reader of the test.  The Surgeon will want to review the “blueprints” themselves before making the recommendation for a particular surgery.

So,  these are the steps you should do before the visit.  Now,  let’s move on the questions that you should ask the surgeon.


1.  Based on my examination,  workup and treatment history,  can surgery be beneficial?

2. Have I exhausted the reasonable non-surgical options?

3.  Is there more than one surgical option?

4.  Is the surgery recommended by my Surgeon a reasonable option?

5. What are the reasons I can expect a successful surgical outcome?

6. What are the reasons I may not have a successful surgical outcome?

7. What are the risks of not having surgery?

8. What are the specific risks of the recommended surgery?

9. If  I postpone the surgery,  is there anything I can do to better my chances for a successful outcome?

10.  Can you define what is considered a successful outcome for the surgery?

11.  Can you predict my chances for achieving that successful outcome?

12.  If you were in my situation,  would you procede with the surgery?

13.  If the surgery is not successful,  is there another option for my situation in the future?

Last modified: October 22, 2019