Finding The Right Spine Surgeon For You

If you are suffering from back or neck pain you usually look to your family doctor or primary care physician first for medical attention. Unfortunately many patients end up needed to go a step further and require the services of a spine specialist. A spine specialist is a physician who has completed additional years of medical training in the diagnosis and treatment of spinal disorders. Some spine disorders that may be included in this list are scoliosis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, herniated discs, stenosis, spine injuries, fractured vertebrae, spinal deformity, tumors, infections and congenital abnormalities.
What to look for in a spine surgeon
Today’s medical field is complex and it is important that a patient becomes as involved in their own medical process as possible. Your choice of back doctor is included in this medical process. Although most managed care programs leave you little room for choice, if you are able to choose your physician, the follow list of guidelines may help you to find the right spine surgeon for you:
Special Note:
If you are in a managed care program and are referred to their “specialist” check them out very carefully as they are often the only ones who will work for an organization whose primary concern is not the patient’s welfare.
(This is a list that I found on Spine Universe’s website)
1. Make sure the spine surgeon is board certified (or board eligible) and fellowship trained in spine. This means that in addition to the usual surgical residency requirements, he or she has completed a fellowship program in spine that included at least one additional year of training specific to spine surgery.
2. Choose a spine surgeon who devotes at least 50% of his or her practice to the treatment of spinal conditions. A physician who sees mostly spine patients will be more up-to-date on newer technologies and techniques than a physician who only sees spine patients occasionally.
3. In addition to the physician’s credentials, make sure the physician you choose is someone you feel comfortable with. After all, finding a physician you can trust is almost as important as his or her experience. Good communication is essential in a doctor/patient relationship, so ask yourself these questions:
a. Does the doctor answer all of your questions and provide you with enough information about your condition?
b. Does he or she spend enough time with you?
c. Is the physician reachable? Open-minded? A good listener?
d. Does he or she welcome a second opinion?
4. Talk to the physician about his or her experience with the latest techniques and technologies in spine surgery. How many procedures has he or she performed? Is the doctor willing to refer you to any former patients who may be available to share their experiences with you?
5. Talk to the physician, or someone in the office, about your medical insurance to find out what is covered and what you may be responsible for.
6. Choose a physician who is referred to you by a reliable source such as your primary care physician, or a friend, or relative. You can also use the physician referral services at your local hospital for additional information about the doctor.
There are also a few things you should be cautious of when selecting a spine surgeon. Avoid any doctor who does the following:
• Discourages or does not allow second opinions.
• Suggests “exploratory” surgery. With today’s sophisticated imaging technology, this is rarely necessary.
• Does not answer all of your questions (or makes you feel bad about asking them).
• Tries to influence your decision to have surgery. Remember, it is totally up to you whether or not you have surgery. Your doctor’s job is to provide you with enough information to comfortably make that decision.
• Bypasses conservative treatment options. Surgery should always be the treatment of last resort – when other non-surgical options have been exhausted.
• Is not forthcoming about treatments, techniques, costs, outcomes, and expectations for recovery.