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Top 3 Questions to Ask Your Spine Surgeon Before Surgery

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Back pain is a constant topic in American life. Eighty percent of us experience it at one time or another and it is the second most common reason for doctor visits in the United States. There are a number of non-surgical treatments for back pain, and 90% of patients who receive treatment at the New England Baptist Hospital Spine Center do not need surgery. However, when non-operative treatments fail, surgery may be the best option for relieving your pain and/or restoring function.

NEBH spine surgeon Eric Carkner, MD, shares the top three questions you should ask your spine surgeon before surgery. By playing an active role in your own healthcare and asking questions, you can improve outcomes and feel better prepared for surgery.

How do you know surgery is the best option?
Spine surgery should only be performed to correct a structural problem in people whose symptoms do not improve with nonsurgical treatment options. Surgery should not be considered when imaging results do not point to a clear reason for pain or loss of function.

Will surgery help my symptoms?
Some back problems respond better to surgery than others. When discussing spine surgery with your physician, it is important to understand how your imaging results (MRI or CAT scan) relate to your symptoms, how surgery will help with the findings, and how the surgery is expected to improve your symptoms and quality of life. Ask your surgeon to explain the procedure and describe what is going to be done and how it will help your condition.

What will my recovery be like?
Recovery after spinal surgery can vary based on a number of factors including your condition, the surgery you have, and your overall physical health. It is important to understand what to do before and after surgery to ensure the best possible outcome. Make sure you know if your recovery will include any restrictions after surgery, wound care, or physical therapy. If you have a physical job, you may require additional time off from work, so make sure to discuss this with your surgeon.

Most patients can resume their normal activities after spine surgery. Ask your surgeon how long you will have to modify your activity for, and when you can expect to be back to doing the things you love.