Most back surgery or neck surgery is elective, meaning the patient in most cases makes the decision. But how do you find a good spine surgeon when you need one? Even if you’ve already been referred to a spine surgeon, how do you know if he or she is any good?
We at Spine-health have written much on the importance of choosing a good spine surgeon for your spine surgery, and have compiled them here for easy access. Our guidelines and tips are designed to take the mystery out of this process and should help you steer the discussion to get your questions answered – and ultimately make a confident decision on which spine surgeon to work with.
Questions to Ask the Surgeon about the Surgery
Don’t be shy about asking pointed questions of the surgeon regarding his/her qualifications and experience with the spine surgery you are considering. Among others, you should ask:
- How many times have you done this procedure? In general, when it comes to surgery "practice makes perfect", so more is better. (However, if the doctor is recommending something that is not often done, such as multi-level fusions, more would not necessarily be better.)
- Are you board eligible or board certified? You can usually look on the wall and see a certificate.
- Are you fellowship trained in spine surgery? This is more important if the surgery is a fusion, artificial disc replacement, or other more extensive procedure.
- If I want to get a second opinion, who would you recommend?
- Statistically the success rate for this type of surgery is _%. What is your personal success rate, and how many of this type of surgery have you done?
- Can I talk to other patients who have had a similar procedure?
Any defensiveness on the part of the surgeon when you ask these types of questions may be a red flag. A surgeon with good results and appropriate qualifications will not be threatened by these types of questions and will respect your attention to these matters. Find more important questions in:
There is no "Consumer Reports" for doctors, and it's infinitely harder to find someone you know and trust who has had the same spine surgery for the same condition as you. Here are some little known and highly effective ways to find out about your surgeon's skills and expertise:
Spine-health’s Medical Director (himself a spine surgeon) shares his advice on spine surgeon warning signs in:
It is often said that no one should have spine surgery unless they receive a second opinion from another surgeon. On the surface, this would sound like good old common sense. However, there is a trap in this line of thinking. When should you get another opinion? For answers, read: