If your back pain is not improving after several conservative procedures or enough time has passed, it’s probably time to consider having surgery. The decision to go under the knife is obviously one you don’t take lightly, but the next decision is equally important: Which of the many spine surgeons in your area to choose. These tips will help you figure out what separates the best spine surgeons from the rest so you can find the one who’s right for your condition and shares your goals.
It goes without saying that experience is the first thing you want to look for when considering spine surgeons. You might be OK with a novice cutting your lawn, but cutting into your back…not so much. But, the number of years a surgeon has been in the business is just the beginning. What has that experience been like? Does the spine surgeon see a patient here and there and do a couple of surgeries a year? Has there been a progression of skills? How do they feel about open surgeries that typically require longer recovery periods versus minimally invasive procedures that give patients a shorter time under anesthesia, less blood loss, a smaller incision, less post-operative pain, and a much shorter recovery?
The best spine surgeons are always looking to grow their skill set, improve their technical capabilities, learn new techniques, and position themselves as leaders in the industry. It should start becoming clear when meeting with a doctor and researching them online if they fall into that category. Coming armed to your initial consultation with a set of questions will help you get a better understanding of the type of surgeon you’re potentially entrusting with your health.
Experience is only one part of the puzzle. Great technical skill is needed for any type of surgery, but when you’re talking about minimally invasive procedures, the detailed training needed is what often separates the best spine surgeons from the rest. These technically advanced surgeries require doctors to be especially adept with their hands and able to utilize specialized instruments in order to perform procedures that address both degenerative conditions and traumatic injuries of the back and neck. The National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NCBI) shows that minimally invasive surgical procedures have been rising steadily for the last 15 years. Yet, only 10 percent of today’s spine surgeons are able to perform minimally invasive surgical procedures for conditions including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and degenerative disc disease.
The idea behind minimally invasive techniques for treating back issues is to achieve maximum pain relief with minimum interference to the body. Once you meet with a surgeon whose sole goal is to heal you in the best way possible, you may learn that you don’t need surgery after all; perhaps there is another conservative treatment you haven’t tried that can bring you relief. But if it turns out you do need surgery, you’ll appreciate your doctor’s philosophy as much as you do his or her skill level.
The term “bedside manner” has been used for decades to help separate the best doctors from the rest, because the way a doctor supports and comforts a patient is an important part of their overall excellence. “Patients bring fear, anxiety…into the exam room,” said the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. “It has always been the doctor’s responsibility to calm their fears and provide hope. The accomplished doctor has a bedside manner that is humane and compassionate, empathetic and supportive.”
Spine surgeons like Dr. Mark Valente of DISC Spine Institute have earned a reputation not only for their great technical skill, experience, and depth of knowledge, but also for the overall feeling of well-being they bring to patients and the confidence they inspire. DISC Spine prides itself on an ability to connect with patients, which is one reason why patients often seek them out for back pain treatment. When you are looking at the possibility of surgery, you want to feel as comfortable as possible knowing you’re working with a surgeon who is not only incredibly talented and has mastered all the most current techniques, but who also genuinely cares for you.
What’s one of the first things you do today when looking for a restaurant, vacation spot, or a new refrigerator? You go online and read reviews. The process should be the same when searching for a spine surgeon. Whether a particular doctor has been referred to you by another physician or a friend or family member, or you are doing a cold search online to start, you always want to read about other people’s experiences. Testimonials will often tell you more about a spine surgeon and the way they operate (literally!) than than you may be able to find elsewhere. Be sure to look on the doctors’ websites for a section on testimonials. If there isn’t one, you’ll definitely want to ask for names of people you can talk to. Don’t be afraid to raise a red flag if a spine surgeon you’re considering doesn’t have testimonials they can present to you.
For more information about minimally invasive surgery, contact DISC Spine Institute, experts in minimally invasive treatments, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain.