Spine surgeries are complicated and have serious repercussions if the procedure is not planned well. A thorough communication with your doctor is therefore very critical to ensure a safe operation and early post-op recovery. Questions can range from the type of treatment chosen for a speedy recovery to side effects. Here is a list of questions that you need to ask your spine surgeon:
1. Why is the surgery recommended?
Typically, there is more than one treatment option for a particular problem. Your doctor should be able to tell you very precisely as to why the surgery is recommended and how it is going to address the problem. He should also discuss the alternative treatments available with their respective advantages and pitfalls.
2. Is there any non-surgical option?
Many spine related issues can be treated with rest, medicines and physiotherapy. Ask your doctor if such conservative options exist.
3. Explain the surgical procedure in detail.
Your doctor should explain the whole surgical procedure, in as much detail as you think is required for you to understand what is going to be done to your body. This helps you to have a practical idea and realistic expectations regarding your treatment.
4. What is the duration of the surgery?
Duration of a spine surgery depends on the procedure that is being performed and individual complexities. A lumbar microdiscectomy may take barely an hour, while a complex spinal fusion may take half a day! Do inquire about the duration expected by your spine surgeon.
5. How will the surgery address the pain or other symptoms?
It is important to know the source of the pain or other symptoms in a spinal pathology. Not all back pain benefit from surgery. Ask your doctor how he intends to address the pain, weakness etc. through the surgery.
6. What are the risks involved?
Risks and side effects vary from patient to patient. For instance, a person with obesity, diabetes and smoking has greater chances of complications associated with any surgery.
7. Do you need to change your regular medications?
Medicines like blood thinners can increase chance of hemorrhagic complications. These need to be stopped before surgery. Do discuss ALL your medical issues no matter how irrelevant they may seem to you.
8. Whether a back brace is necessary after surgery?
Limiting the spine movement is necessary for the process of healing. Most Doctors suggest braces or collars after a spine surgery.
9. What is the time required for recovery?
The recovery greatly varies with patients and conditions. What you should ask your Doctor is the expected time required for you to join your job/school.
10. Will there be any physical limitation after the operations?
Many spine surgeries require you to refrain from strenuous jobs for a while. For instance, certain surgeries require you to stay away from driving for a while. Address all these apprehensions from your doctor. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a Neurosurgeon.