If you notice any of these red flags from your surgeon, do whatever you can to find a new one. True, not everyone has the luxury to “shop around” for a surgeon. But, ask yourself: is the cost of ignoring the warning signs worth it? Be on the lookout for the following scenarios:
- A surgeon who claims “everyone does well with this surgery” does not have the facts straight. There is no surgery that does not have risks and that always has a good outcome.
- It takes a lot of practice to get good at operating on the spine. If a surgeon’s main focus is hip surgery, for example, it’s probable he is no expert on the spine.
- Consider it a problem if your surgeon cannot clearly articulate what he or she thinks is the anatomic problem that is causing your pain and how he or she proposes to correct it.
- A good surgeon should be easily able to articulate not only the specific risks of a procedure but also the percentage chance of that specific risk.
- Be very skeptical if your surgeon proposes doing a multilevel fusion in the lumbar spine for degenerative disc disease. The spine is meant to move. Although fusing one or possibly two levels for a badly degenerated disc is reasonable, fusing multiple levels is rarely necessary or advisable.
- Make sure your surgeon offers non-surgical treatment options. He or she may be operating under the old "I have a hammer so everything I treat is a nail" adage.
- A well-qualified, informed physician does not mind an inquisitive patient. A marginal physician is more likely to be put out by questions. If your surgeon gets perturbed by your questions, consider him or her marginal.
- Run if the surgeon states that he or she has never done this particular type of surgery, but would like to try it.
- The most common reason a surgery does not work is that the patient did not need the surgery in the first place. If your surgeon proposes doing a surgery all over again, he or she may not have your best interest in mind.