Having back surgery is a lot like being pregnant – everyone wants to tell you about the experience. From horror stories to life-changing results, anyone who has been through a neurological procedure wants to tell you about it. So what’s the truth? How can you make sure you’re one of the back surgery success stories?
Here are four things you can do to increase your chances of back surgery success.
Choose your medical team.
There are many medical specialists who perform back surgery, so choosing the right one for you is important to a successful recovery. Neurosurgeons have the lengthiest and most in-depth training of all specialties involved in spinal care. Their training consists of eight years of residency with hundreds of spinal cases per year and sometimes an additional fellowship for complex and minimally invasive techniques. Contrast that with only a few months of spinal specialization by orthopedic surgeons who also have to learn procedures for the knee, ankle, elbow, and other bone and joint conditions.
Make sure your surgeon has the proper credentials.
Check to see if your surgeon is board-certified by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. The AANS website will help you find this information. Board-certified neurosurgeons have to reapply for certification every year and continue their education with courses and tests to stay up to date on the latest advances in spine surgery.
Have your surgery in a specialized center.
In specialized spine surgery centers, everyone is a specialist. The nurses, the anesthesiologists and the surgeon have all focused their attention and practice on back surgeries. There are fewer mistakes, the ability to perform more complicated cases, and the opportunity for outpatient procedures. Imagine going home just hours after surgery – it can and does happen in a specialized spine center.
Be an active participant in your own care. Ask questions; no good surgeon should ever avoid your questions and concerns. This is a team effort- you and your doctor are both vital members and the procedure can’t be successful without both being fully engaged.
Back surgery is just one step in getting better. It’s a gateway to a healthier life, one hopefully full of good nutrition, exercise and activities that allow you to live life to the fullest. Following these four steps will help ensure the best result for you.
-John V Cuff, M.D.
This article originally appeared in Southern Distinction.