Like any surgery, back surgery is a big undertaking with its share of risk. At Englewood Spine Associates, we only recommend surgery after ruling out all other treatment options. But sometimes surgery is necessary to help you feel better so that you can get back to living life without pain. It is helpful to have a list of questions to ask as you decide on your procedure and surgeon and prepare for the surgery. Having information will help you feel confident in your decision and reduce your stress and anxiety. Any surgical team that is worthy of having you as a patient will take the time to answer your questions patiently and thoroughly.
Here are some suggestions to help you start your list.
Questions About Your Procedure
Ask your surgical team to explain the procedure in as great of detail as you feel comfortable hearing. The level of detail varies with everyone – some patients may want to know everything, and others may get nervous if they know too much. You will also want to understand why they are recommending that procedure and how your pain will be addressed by it. Your team should be able to share alternate treatment options and how the condition will progress without surgery. You’ll also want to ask them to explain the risks and potential complications, particularly if you have risk factors like older age, smoking history, being overweight, and previous surgeries. Some other questions you’ll want to ask include:
- How long will the surgery last?
- What is the name of the hospital or surgical facility where the procedure will be performed?
- Will you have to stay in the hospital and, if so, for how long?
- Who will be on your surgical team – will other surgeons perform some of it?
- Is there any information or published research you can review in advance?
- Are there preoperative instructions for you to follow?
Questions About Your Surgeon
Naturally, it is important that your surgeon have experience with your condition and be qualified to perform the recommended procedure. You may want to ask if they can connect you with one of their patients who has had the same procedure and if they have any recommendations for a second opinion. If they offer a suggestion for a second opinion, it should be with a surgeon outside of their practice. You may be concerned that your surgeon will feel like you are skeptical of them, but the surgeon that is right for you will compassionately answer your questions without getting defensive. At Englewood Spine Associates, we encourage our patients to ask as many questions as they need to feel comfortable. You will want to consider gathering the following information as well:
- How many times have you done this procedure?
- Are you board-eligible or board-certified?
- What is your success rate with this type of surgery?
Questions About Your Recovery
Recovery is a critical component of your surgical journey. You will need to ask your surgical team what your recovery will look like – how much pain you should expect, what medications you will be on, and what equipment and support you’ll need. You will want to have a clear understanding of your physical limitations after the surgery and how long it might be until you can return to work and other regular activities. You will also want to ask:
- What will follow-up care look like – how soon will you have your first appointment and how frequent will appointments be after? Will you need physical therapy?
- Who should you call if you have follow-up questions?
- What symptoms should you look for – which ones require follow-up with your surgeon, and which are serious enough for emergency care?
Spine surgery is a serious proposition, and it is easy to be overwhelmed by what you don’t understand. Arming yourself with information can help put you at ease. Having a prepared list of questions will help you make the most of the time you have with your surgeon and minimize uncertainty. Our team at Englewood Spine Associates has over 25 years of experience providing spinal care and surgery, and we would be delighted to answer any questions you have. Please contact us to schedule an appointment.