If a spine surgeon does not allow questions, acts disdainful of being questioned, or if you find that your questions have not been adequately addressed, you should be cautious about having the procedure. If you have any doubts at all, consider getting a second opinion in order to feel confident that you have selected the right surgeon to do your procedure.

Specific red flags include a spine surgeon who...

  • Discourages or is threatened by a second opinion rather than agreeing to one to make you comfortable with your decision.
  • Suggests "exploratory" spine surgery in this age of sophisticated imaging technology.
  • Uses scare tactics to influence your decision making process; even a pressing need for surgery can be handled in an even-handed manner.
  • Says he/she can "cure" you, which may indicate that the surgeon may not be acting realistically or giving you full informed consent.
  • Does not investigate conservative (nonsurgical) treatment options, including reviewing your previous attempts at conservative care to ensure that they were carried out appropriately.

While dealing with back pain can be a weighty process, it is essential that you are active in making decisions about your own treatment. If you have arrived at the stage where you are considering surgery, these guidelines and questions can help to ensure you get quality care.

Find an integrated clinic in the Spine-health Spine Center Directory.

Dr. Theodore Goldstein is the Founding Director of the Cedars-Sinai Spine Center and an orthopedic surgeon with more than 40 years of experience specializing in spine care.