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The Most Critical Questions to Ask When Evaluating a Spine Surgeon

Aug 25, 2014

If you or a loved one need spinal surgery, finding a top-notch surgeon is your first step toward recovery. If you want to find the best lawyer, interior designer, or nanny, the first step would be to interview potential candidates. Hiring a surgeon is no different, but many people are intimidated by the idea of interviewing a doctor. There is no reason for you to be intimidated. When you are choosing a service provider, you must determine what characteristics are important to you and then choose someone who matches those characteristics. If you are still uneasy, begin the conversation with these five critical questions to ask when evaluating a spine surgeon:

Are you certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties?

The American Board of Medical Specialties is an association that certifies physicians in many specialties, including orthopaedic surgery. Certified physicians must meet certain requirements for continued training and quality patient care. Hiring a board certified physician will not guarantee a successful result, but it is a good place to start.

What special training related to spinal surgery do you have?

Experience counts when it comes to spinal surgery because if things go wrong during a spinal procedure, the results could be tragic. Most surgeons have already had at least 13 years of medical training, and a spinal specialist should have at least two to three years of additional specialty training.

What is my expected prognosis?

You should not accept a doctor who recommends surgery without properly evaluating your specific situation. A good surgeon will study your case and should have a good idea of how your condition would progress with or without surgical treatment.

How many patients in situations like mine have you operated on in the last 24 months? What was their typical recovery time?

Considering the wide range of spinal procedures a surgeon may perform, and the varying range of patients he or she may serve, it is very difficult to answer this question accurately. If your physician gives you a firm prediction of your recovery time, the number probably has little connection to reality. A good physician will give you a rough estimate, but also express the variability of recovery time.

What alternative therapies should I consider?

In rare cases, surgery will be the only viable treatment option. Most of the time however, various treatment options will be available. Of course, most surgeons will tend to believe that surgery is the best option, but they should still be aware of noninvasive treatment options and recommend one if it is appropriate.

Finding the best physician is a significant milestone on your road to recovery. Use these five critical questions as a springboard to start a conversation and find the best doctor for you. If you want to know more about spinal surgery, download our free e-book, The Patient’s Manual to Spine Surgery.