Finding 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.
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.