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Questions to Ask Before Your Procedure

Questions to Ask Before Your Procedure

Questions to Ask Before Your ProcedureFinding out you may need spinal surgery can understandably cause you to become anxious or nervous. Preparation is key, and arming yourself with information about your procedure can help you to feel more confident and relaxed about your treatment.

The following is a list of questions you should ask your surgeon or doctor when discussing your recommended surgical treatment. We recommend printing this list and taking it with you to help guide your discussion, you can also bring a loved one or friend to take notes during the appointment.

Question Your Treatment

These questions focus on your specific procedure and how you may be affected.

  • What type of surgery are you recommending and why? Are there alternative treatments?
  • What is the source of my pain and how did you confirm this diagnosis?
  • What are the side effects, potential risks, and complications of my procedure?
  • Do you perform the entire procedure, or will other surgeons or students perform certain parts? If so, who are they and what are their qualifications?
  • What are the long-term consequences of this procedure?
  • What is the natural course of my condition if I choose not to have this procedure?

Be sure to ask your doctor to explain the potential risks concerning your state of personal health and wellbeing as patient-related risk factors such as age, lifestyle habits such as smoking and weight, and other medical conditions may affect the outcome of your surgery. You should thoroughly understand the reason for your procedure as well as the details of the procedure including the potential risks and benefits.

Discuss Your Surgeon’s Ability

Asking relevant questions can help you determine how qualified your surgeon is and their knowledge and experience of your surgery.

  • What is your experience with this surgery?
  • What is the success rate for this procedure and what is your personal success rate?
  • Would you mind if I got a second opinion?

Experienced surgeons typically have encountered various spinal conditions throughout their practice enabling them to modify procedures that may be necessary in some cases. Please take note of any defensiveness during these questions as they should be viewed as a red flag. A good surgeon should not be alarmed by your questioning and be willing to discuss this information with you.

Post-Surgery Considerations

These questions are important to help you understand what to expect during recovery and the functionality of your spine in the long-term.

  • What degree of pain should I expect post-surgery and for how long? What symptoms warrant your attention or a call to your office?
  • What is your follow-up process like and how often will I see you during recovery?
  • How should I prepare my house for my recovery? What medical equipment will I need once I leave the hospital?
  • What are the limitations of my recovery? When can I resume light chores, drive, or perform regular activities?
  • Will I need at-home assistance? What parts of my daily routine will have to change?
  • At what point in my recovery process will I need to begin physical therapy?

Another important question to pose will be how your doctor plans to help you manage your pain. If you will be sent home with pain medication, be sure you understand the possible side effects of those prescriptions. It may take some time before you can function normally such as bathing or walking without a walker or back brace. Sometimes your doctor may recommend special equipment such as an adjustable bed to ease your recovery. Be sure to include any questions that might be relevant to your insurance company in terms of costs and payments so you don’t have to worry about those details as you recover.

It is smart to ask these questions in advance so that you can prepare your home, family, and finances. As with any surgery, there are potential risks and benefits associated with your procedure and they should equally be discussed when determining whether surgery is right for you. Use your appointments with your doctor and surgeon to your advantage to gain more knowledge about your recommended treatment.

For more information on preparing yourself for surgery or to schedule a consultation, please contact Paul M. Brisson, MD Orthopedic Spinal Surgeon today.


If you’ve suffered from a work-related injury or illness in most cases, your primary physician will determine your care, when you can return to work, and whether you have any disabilities as a result of the incident and to what extent. In some workers’ compensation cases, your employer’s insurance company may disagree with your doctor’s recommendations or want a second opinion and request you undergo an independent medical exam, or IME.

The outcome of this exam can significantly impact your case and what you will receive in care and benefits, so it is important to understand how an IME works and what you can do once the results are in.


An IME is a medical evaluation performed by another doctor who is to act as a neutral party between you and your employer and is often used to resolve any questions about your medical condition that the insurance company may have. Often, they are requested by your employer because they disagree with a decision made by your primary doctor about your treatment or results of care.

An IME is supposed to use an objective point of view to determine your treatment, whether you have a permanent impairment and to what degree, and your ability to work in the future. However, how objective your IME is may depend on how the doctor is selected.

The rules can vary from state to state, but often the insurance company can select the doctor who will perform the evaluation. In these cases, there is a good reason to question the impartiality of the doctor selected as the doctor will be paid by the insurance company and may rely on the company for referrals.

The examining doctor may also be randomly selected from a list of qualified specialists or assigned by a judge overseeing your case.

Regardless of how the doctor is chosen, we always recommend patients consult with a workers’ compensation attorney when asked to undergo an IME or when beginning a workers’ compensation case. Your attorney can be an advocate for your treatment during a hearing or rebut the IME and help you negotiate a favorable settlement of your case.


Prior to the examination, your medical records and documents relevant to your condition such as the injury report or statements given in your case will be sent to the IME doctor. Your employer’s insurance company may also write to the doctor posing specific questions about your condition and your primary doctor’s recommended course of treatment. It is up to the doctor to review the information before or after the IME.

It is important to note that the IME doctor is not going to engage with you in the typical doctor-patient relationship and will not offer advice, medical treatment, or share his or her opinion of your case. Anything you say or do during the examination is not privileged or protected and could be used against you.

Your attorney may recommend bringing a friend to the IME to act as a witness in your defense. Your friend or family member can take notes on what time the doctor begins and ends the exam, what questions are asked, and what tests are done.

During the examination, the doctor will likely start by asking how the incident occurred, a discussion of your medical history, and the course of treatment so far. Several exams and tests may also be conducted to determine your condition.

Afterward, the doctor will write a report with his or her conclusions and opinions in response to your case and the disputed issues in question. Both parties will receive a copy of this report.


Your employer will follow the findings of the IME report. If the results are positive, then you can continue your primary doctor’s original course of treatment and necessary benefits.

It is not uncommon for the IME doctor to disagree with your primary physician. There can be various reasons for the disagreement in opinions. Your employer and the insurance company will rely on the IME report and may refuse to pay benefits, authorize additional treatment, or accommodate your work restrictions despite your need for more care. In this case, your attorney will have to counter the IME report which could take weeks or months before a trial or decision is made.


The IME doctor may regularly work for your employer’s insurance company and may minimize the extent of your injuries in favor of the insurance company resulting in a negative report.

However, you can counter the report and have your attorney file objections or request another examination. There are several things you can do to counter the report, including:

  • Ask for a complete copy of the report rather than just certain portions of it. This can help to determine if the examiner was unfair, brief, or taken without considering previous conditions.
  • Point out any inaccuracies or incompleteness in the report. Use your own medical records or your witness’ notes to point out the contradictions.
  • Contrast the amount of time your IME doctor spent diagnosing and treating you compared to your primary doctor.
  • You can also request your doctor to write a response that counters the IME doctor’s report.

For more information on independent medical examinations and how we can help, please contact Paul M. Brisson, MD Orthopedic Spinal Surgeon today.

How to Evaluate Your Doctor

Posted on July 15, 2020
How to Evaluate Your Doctor

It can be difficult and daunting to find the right doctor for your needs. Your doctor plays an important part in your life as they have a significant impact on your health. However, it is imperative that you also play an active role in your healthcare by selecting professionals you have confidence in. Are you happy with your current doctor? By evaluating your doctor, you can determine if you are doing the best you can for your health.

Though research can also be done ahead of time, you can research afterward and change your doctor later if you are unsatisfied with their care or your results. Whether you are looking for a new doctor or wanting to know more information on your current doctor, the internet can be a great place to get information.

Search the directory

Most insurance websites provide a directory for you to find a doctor within your network. This can be a great place to begin your search. However, be sure to call offices as well to verify that the practice still accepts your insurance.

Board Certification

Being board certified means your doctor has earned a medical degree from a qualified school and completed years of residency training. This also means that your doctor is licensed by the state and has passed several examinations over the years to maintain their certification. You can check your doctor’s verification by checking board certification sites. These sites may also offer more information about your doctor and their practice.

Consider your compatibility

Research suggests that people who have a strong relationship with their doctor report higher levels of satisfaction and health. Finding common grounds or similar value systems can make it easier for patients to connect and feel comfortable communicating honestly.

Ask questions!

You should play an active role in discussions about your health. It is important that you feel free to ask questions and voice any questions or concerns you may have without the fear of disapproval or judgment.

It’s okay to ask for a 2nd or even 3rd opinion from other doctors. A reputable doctor will not feel offended by a patient requesting another opinion, especially before a big procedure.

If you don’t understand something completely and are a little confused, ask your doctor to explain treatments and procedures in terms that you can understand.

Check your doctor’s rates

No, we don’t mean costs and financing rates, though those are important too! If surgery is recommended or a procedure you are unfamiliar with, check the complication and success rates of your doctor for those treatments. You should also ask your doctor about their experience in treatments before making any commitments. Be sure to review their performance records as well as the hospitals they are affiliated with as this can impact your healthcare.

We review and evaluate big-ticket items before we buy them all the time, so why should your doctor be any different? All doctors graduate with their medical degrees and require a license to practice, but their personalities, training, and experience differ. By evaluating your doctor, you can gain confidence in your choice and find greater satisfaction in your healthcare.

For more information on how to evaluate your doctor, contact Paul M. Brisson, MD Orthopedic Spinal Surgeon today.

The Importance of Physical Therapy

Posted on June 19, 2020
The Importance of Physical Therapy

The Importance of Physical TherapySurgical intervention is sometimes the best treatment option for those who struggle with chronic concerns or severe conditions and injuries. However, surgery is not enough to get you into optimal health.

The road to recovery can be just as intense as the surgery itself. Regardless of what kind of surgery you’ve had, big or small, it can take a toll on your body. This can leave patients weakened, immobilized, and still in pain.

We understand that patients wish to recover quickly so they can return to their day-to-day life, which is why we want to remind our patients that physical therapy is one of the most important parts of having a healthy and successful surgery.

Why is physical therapy important?

Though recovery occurs after the physical portion of the surgery, it is one of the most crucial times of any surgery. It is during this time that patients can make or break the success of the procedure.

Physical therapy helps your muscles, joints, soft tissue, and bones function again after surgery through directed motions.

Your physical therapist will help you to regain strength and return to daily activities sooner by helping you to recover faster in a safe and controlled environment. At first, you will begin with simple exercises that involve stretching and flexing before moving onto more intense exercises as you recover. Their job is to safely push you so that you make a healthy and complete recovery.

It is not only about helping you to become physically active after surgery, but to help you remain active long after you’ve fully recovered.

How does it help?

Physical therapy aids the healing process. These seemingly simple stretching and strengthening exercises help patients to regain balance, muscle control, strength, and range of motion.

Not only do physical therapists help you recover, but they also regularly monitor your recovery. They can spot problems early on and address them before a problem becomes severe enough to bother you.

Your physical therapist will work with you and your doctor to customize your treatment plan and adjust it as necessary. It is carefully planned and supervised. Common types of physical therapy include:

  • Range of motion exercises
  • Balance exercises
  • Strength training
  • Stretching and flexibility exercises
  • Low impact cardiovascular exercises

Regular physical therapy helps to alleviate any post-surgical pain by removing pressure and strain on the surgical area. This can also lessen a patient’s reliance on prescription pain medication through recovery.

What happens if you neglect physical therapy?

Patients who remain inactive or limit their movement during recovery can actually do more damage than good. Patients who do not follow their physical therapy recommendations often experience muscle weakness, loss of function and mobility, and an increase in the risk of postoperative complications.

By not following your recommended plan or by failing to do your exercises at home, you limit, delay, and possibly even lower the success of your surgery.

Physical therapy is a vital part of your post-operative care. Not only can it help quicken the healing process, but it works to improve your balance, flexibility, strength, and range of motion. Some patients report even becoming stronger than they were before surgery.

For more information on the importance of physical therapy after surgery, contact Paul M. Brisson, MD Orthopedic Spinal Surgeon today.

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