In my prior post, I discussed ways you can help your physician help you. This post focuses on what you should expect after your first consultation with a surgeon.

After your initial surgical consultation, your spine surgeon should be able to tell you if you may be a surgical candidate. Most patients’ conditions will fall into one of three categories.

Surgery may be able to help ease the pain from a herniated disc.
What's a Herniated Disc, Pinched Nerve, Bulging Disc...?

  1. You may definitely have a surgical lesion.
  2. You may have a lesion that is potentially surgical but requires further work up.
  3. You may have no identifiable anatomic lesion as a cause of your pain.

If you have not achieved pain relief from non-surgical treatment, and if you do have an anatomic lesion as a cause of your pain (e.g. disc herniation, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis) you will need to know what kind of surgery may help you, what the recovery time is, and what the surgeon's personal success rate with this type of surgery is.

You will also need to know the risks and possible complications, and what would be the natural history of your condition if you were to not have surgery. Surgery for low back pain is almost always elective, and it is your choice as to whether or not you wish to undergo an invasive procedure.

Article continues below

Deciding for or against surgery

Ultimately, it is up you, the patient, to consider the risks and benefits of surgery. Use this site, and join our forums to research your options. Find other people (through our forums or social media sites) who have had similar symptoms and diagnosis, and find out what they chose to do.

Your surgeon should be able to articulate what can technically be done and what type of outcome you can reasonably expect.

Armed with the knowledge from the surgeon and your research, it’s time to make an informed decision.

If you fall into the second category (need more workup), you may have to have further tests like a discogram or more imaging studies.

If your surgeon cannot articulate what you have and what type of treatment will be potentially advantageous, you may want seek yet another opinion. After all, deciding on surgery can be very difficult.

If your surgeon cannot help in the process, it is doubtful they will be effective in helping you deal with postoperative rehabilitation or treating potential postoperative complications.