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Unresponsive Surgeon

Has anyone else had experience with an extremely unresponsive surgeon post-op?  I am about 3 months from my PLIF surgery, and have had various questions/concerns/issues throughout recovery.  I have had two follow up appointments so far.  Every time I call the office with a new symptom, question or concern, it is almost impossible to get a call back.  I usually have to call three times before I get a call back, and then, it is the physician's assistant, not the surgeon.  I had a recent MRI and am very concerned about some of the results in the report that was posted to my patient portal - but cannot get anyone to explain it to me.  I got a verbal "looks good" message, but that was before the formal report was posted.  The report has terms I don't understand, and appears to conflict with my last set of X-rays.  This is mostly a vent, but I'm also curious if anyone else has run into this.  If so, what has worked to get some response from the elusive dr?  He is a well known and respected surgeon in my state, and a very nice guy, when I actually can see/talk to him.  I am so frustrated I don't know what to do. Thank you!
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Comments

  • Surgeons can be hard to pin down and seem to rely on their PAs for lots of after care. Have you tried addressing your questions to your PA. My surgeon is very responsive via email but I know I could never get him to call me. Maybe try email and see if he/she responds when they have a moment of time. 
  • You might consider developing a relationship with a physiatrist. It took me 3 months to schedule my recent surgery and I learned from the experience that surgeons are incredibly busy people and that their offices are not structured to be as responsive as you might like.  Luckily, pre-surgery, I was able to establish a relationship with a physiatrist who was much more accessible to address my day-to-day concerns.

    Luckily, so far (knock on wood), I am having a trouble-free surgical recovery and I don't have any questions or concerns that require the attention of the surgeon, but if I were having any difficulties or setbacks, I would probably show up first in the office of my physiatrist because I know I would get in quicker (after all, she, unlike my surgeon, is not in the OR all day) and if something really needed to be addressed by the surgeon, she would liaison with the surgeon, doctor to doctor.

    C6-C7 ACDF - January 20, 2016
    Shoulder surgery - August 2, 2016
    Interlaminar laminotomy, mesial facetectomy and foraminotomy bilateral at C5-C6 and unilateral left at C6-C7 and bilateral C6-C7 facet fusion - December 7, 2016

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  • Thank you both.  Yes, I have talked to the PA a few times.  He isn't the best communicator and I really don't feel like he answers my questions, just says oh don't worry you're fine.  The office has a patient portal system that doesn't work, so email isn't an option unfortunately.  I do not have a physiatrist.  Maybe that is something I can look into if I don't get the help I need.  I do have a sports medicine DO I have worked with for years on my back pre-surgery, but he seems a little hesitant to get involved since he isn't a surgeon.  I appreciate the ideas!  Maybe I will just schedule my next post-op appt early...
  • You might ask your surgeon if he has a referral to a physiatrist.  Most of them have one or two that they work with and if it is someone with whom the surgeon regularly works, the physiatrist may not have the same fears about getting involved. 

    The point about a physiatrist is that he or she should know what's normal after surgery and what isn't and when it is and isn't necessary to reach out to the surgeon, which shouldn't be an issue if the two of them regularly collaborate.  At least that is how it works in my town, since formal or informal multidisciplinary practices are common here.  It may be different where you live.
    C6-C7 ACDF - January 20, 2016
    Shoulder surgery - August 2, 2016
    Interlaminar laminotomy, mesial facetectomy and foraminotomy bilateral at C5-C6 and unilateral left at C6-C7 and bilateral C6-C7 facet fusion - December 7, 2016

  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,527
    While I totally agree that in the long run a physiatrist is the best overall type of doctor for people with chronic pain.

    It really is not addressing the problem that Duckgirl and so many other patients face.  Yes, there is no question that the surgeon's time is very busy, but you are his patient and there is a certain degree of responsibility they have towards you.

    That is, until they dismiss you as their patient.  Many surgeons doe that from 1 to 3 months post surgery.  Then they expect you to go back to the doctor you were seeing before.   But while you are trying to get answers from your surgeon, I've learned from experience that many of my phone calls never got through to them.  Instead, the front office would hold them up as deemed fit.   They might talk it over with the PA and perhaps get back to you.   

    I had a situation where I needed an answer from the surgeon.  I called and called, explaining that I needed to speak to the doctor for a quick moment, there was something I needed to understand about what was happening during my recovery. They yesd me to death, but still no call back.I called and called, still nothing.  When I finally had a follow on appointment with this doctor, I told him about my experience regarding the phone calls.   He told me , he was never told about any of my phone calls!  The front office never gave him any messages.   Since this was the same surgeon who had done 4 of my surgeries, he took me out to the front desk and in front of me Ask the office manager WHY they did not deliver him any of my messages.   Needless to say, the manager was quite embarrassed and fumbled with answers.  The doctor just told her, dont do that again!.   Well, it did never happen again, but I think if that office manager saw my car parked some where, I might have 4 flat tires.!

    So, now I have a philosophy about office staff.  While I totally appreciate their work, since it is very important, I coined a phrase my wife gave me.  When I ask a question to the office and need an answer, I also follow it up with

    I need the doctor to answer me, unless you now have a sign up that you are professional qualified to practice medicine!
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
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  • When I had my neck surgery (ACDF of levels C5/6-C7) I had a very unresponsive surgeon and even worse was told different things from the assistants regarding recovery than what the doctor said. The doctors/surgeons gave me much less accurate information about recovery times and what I might be able to do at certain times. Now my neck surgery was minimally invasive but I was told by one of the doctors that I would be able to drive from Florida to Tennessee two days after surgery. The surgeon said that I'd be able to drive in one week...in reality I was in a hard collar for four weeks and unable to drive. The doctor's assistants said typically people are able to drive in two to three weeks.

    Two weeks ago Friday I had minimally invasive surgery on my lumbar spine a TLIF of lumbar 4/5 fusion. I have to wear a back brace whenever sitting, standing, walking etc. No driving for a month and not even allowed to be a passenger in the car for a month except to get home from the hospital and to go to my four weeks follow up on March 2nd.
    At least this time I knew that up front do so no surprises. Things he didn't tell me....I would need to use a walker after the surgery and a raised toilet with arms to pull up on in order to stand back up.

    I definitely needed the walker at first...to move at all. Now I can walk throughout my whole house without one but am not supposed to in case that my legs get weak or tired. 

    Well there is more to tell but this is becoming a novel. If you have any specific questions to ask me I will do my best to answer them from a patient's point of view.
    Jennifer
  • Thanks again Ron for your insight and help.  And thank you also Jennifer.  I have also had conflicting advice from the PA and surgeon on stuff, such as medication instructions.  I finally did hear from my surgeon yesterday, but I didn't feel he really paid attention or answered my questions well so I am going to go in for another appointment.  It can be such a frustrating process! Good luck to all going through it.  
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 13,527
    Duckgirl,

    When you go for your next appointment.  Have a pad of paper with all of your questions written down.  Make sure your doctor knows you have the pad out.  Explain to him/her that  you have a number of questions that you want to discuss.  Doing it this way, the doctor knows you have questions and you will have questions written in advance so, its not at the last minute.
    Ron DiLauro Veritas-Health Forums Manager
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences 
  • Thanks Ron I appreciate that it is great advice.  Whenever he calls it is while I am on the way home from work or some other inconvenient time so I never am prepared.  Thanks again!
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