5 Questions to Ask Your Spine Surgeon Before Having Spinal Surgery

Deciding to undergo spinal surgery is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. As such, you will want to think about it for some time to make sure that it is the right choice for you. Additionally, there are a few key questions that you should ask your spine surgeon to ensure that you have as much information as possible to make an informed decision. Here are 5 important questions to ask your spine surgeon when considering spinal surgery: 

Why do I need back surgery?

Before undergoing back surgery, you want to make sure that you and your doctor have exhausted all other non-surgical treatment options such as physical therapy or spinal injections. Since there are risks involved with any spinal surgery, it is important to discuss why having surgery is more beneficial than continuing non-surgical treatments. In some cases, immediate surgery is simply the best option to prevent further damage or to alleviate severe pain. Talking with your doctor about why you need back surgery can help you decide between non-surgical and surgical treatments. 

What type of spine surgery are you recommending and why?

There are different types of spinal surgery, so it is important to first understand what approach your surgeon plans on using. It is also helpful for you to know why they plan on using one particular approach over another. Not only will this allow you to understand what will happen during your surgery, but it will also give you more information about how your specific case needs to be handled. When discussing the type of spinal surgery your surgeon plans on performing, you should also discuss where the surgery is taking place, if it will be done from the front or back, whether you will need a bone graft, how large the incision will be, and if any instrumentation such as screws or rods will be needed. 

What outcome should I realistically expect for my personal case?

spine surgeon discussing spinal scans

Although your spinal surgery has a projected outcome, everyone’s exact experience will vary. This is simply due to the fact that your body may react differently to spinal surgery. While your spinal surgeon cannot predict surgical outcomes with exact certainty, they should be able to give you an idea of how your body will react to the procedure. Ultimately, factors such as age, symptoms, diagnosis, level of fitness, and other health conditions will all affect the outcome of your surgery. In some cases, these factors can even determine the longevity of surgical results. This can mean that some procedures will require repeat surgeries, while others may have long-term results. As a patient, it is important for you to know what your surgeon anticipates for your individual case. 

How do I prepare for surgery?

Another important thing to discuss with your spinal surgeon before having back surgery is how to prepare. Certain surgical procedures may require long-term planning that includes losing weight, making medical adjustments, and quitting smoking. In these cases, your surgical preparation may start months before your scheduled surgery date. Even if it is not necessary to have long-term preparations, you will still need to determine what to do in the days and weeks leading up to surgery. It is also important to know whether there will be a hospital stay to prepare for as well. Part of preparing for your surgery also means taking time off of work and finding someone to take care of you during recovery. 

What is my post-operative treatment plan?

Finally, it is important that you discuss your post-operative treatment plan with your spinal surgeon. Generally speaking, post-operative plans consist of temporary lifestyle changes, rest, and physical therapy. However, each type of procedure can have differences in terms of what needs to be done and for how long. Part of a successful recovery is being aware of your post-operative plan and being an active participant in your recovery. Therefore, you will need to know specifically what you should expect during your recovery, as well as what you need to do in order to heal properly and as soon as possible. 

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