Of course, any surgery is serious, but any type of spinal fusion is an especially major surgery. Do not take the selection of your surgeon lightly.
To make the process of choosing your surgeon a little easier, develop a checklist which includes some important characteristics to evaluate:
History has shown that the best surgical outcomes are directly correlated with a surgeon's experience with a specific type of surgery.
Look for a surgeon who specializes in spine surgery (rather than neurological or general orthopedic surgeries, for example), and with fusion in particular.
If you are a candidate for an artificial disc, the same rule of thumb holds true: select a surgeon with solid experience and a history of good outcomes in surgeries involving artificial discs.
For more about different types of surgeons see Orthopedic Surgeon vs. Neurosurgeon for Spine Surgery
Surgeon's record of results and complications
Don't be afraid to ask the surgeon for references. (Because of strict HIPPA guidelines, a surgeon must have a signed consent form from patients in order to share their names with you.) Happy patients are usually more than willing to share their success stories with other patients seeking information.
Ask your potential surgeon (or the nurse) how many patients have had to undergo revision surgery because the initial spinal fusion procedure did not produce the expected results.
A reputable surgeon will not feel insulted if you ask these types of questions about his or her surgical results. You are making an important decision, and you need all the information you can get.
Communication and bedside manner
Communication is critical, and it should be a two-way street.
Can you speak with the surgeon openly and receive straightforward, understandable answers? What can you expect in terms of post-operative meetings with the doctor or colleagues in the same practice?
You don't have to feel like your surgeon could be your friend, but it is important to feel like he or she has taken your questions seriously and provided you with the information you need to make an informed decision.
Some may find that the best ways to understand spine fusion surgery are to talk to more than one surgeon, and to become educated on the surgery. The fact that you're visiting Spine-health.com is a good first step. Also, check our doctor database for Spine-health verified physicians.