If you need spine surgery for your condition, sure you want to have the best spine surgeon to perform the surgery. However, trying to find the best spine surgeon can be difficult. But the following steps should be able to make your searching process easier.
Step 1, know your condition
To find the best spine surgeon for your surgery, first you need to understand your condition, especially the cause of your condition. Does the condition cause you chronic pain or acute pain? How and when did the pain start? There are many different types of spine surgery, but none of them is suitable for all conditions. For example, an endoscopic spine surgery may be perfect for treating disc herniations. But it may not be best choice for fixing a broken vertebra, which may need more aggressive surgery that involves fusion.
If you don’t know your condition very well, especially if you are not sure about the exact cause of your condition, see your family physician first. By reviewing your medical history and performing some exams and tests, your physician should be able to help you understand your condition better. If your family physician is not able to pinpoint the cause of your condition, chances are he or she will refer you to someone who can.
Step 2, search a professional organization’s database
If your family physician has recommended a surgeon he or she trusts, you can start from there. But if not, you may search some professional organizations’ databases for first round of screening. Almost all spine surgeons belong to certain professional organizations focusing on treating spinal conditions. Although not all organizations make their members’ information available to the public, some organizations do (eg, the Society for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery). Find a legitimate organization and check its database and see if you can find someone who specializes in treating your condition.
Step 3, check out the surgeon’s professional background and experience
If you have selected a few surgeons based on your family physician’s recommendation or your own research, you need to check out the surgeons’ educational and training background and their clinical experience. With high speed internet access, much of the information is just a click away. Information you may be able to find online often can help answer the following questions
- Is the surgeon board certified?
- Did the surgeon receive specialty training in spine surgery?
- How long has the surgeon been in practice?
- Has the surgeon been sued for malpractice?
- What do others (colleagues and/or patients) say about the surgeon?
Step 4, call the surgeon’s office to find out more information
After you have selected one or a few surgeons based on the information you have found out through Step 3, call the surgeon’s office for more information. A representative from the surgeon’s office should be able to tell you
- If the surgeon frequently performs the type of surgery you need. Like any other surgeon, to keep his skills sharp, a spine surgeon needs to perform the surgery on a regular basis. This is particularly true for an endoscopic spine surgeon who uses advanced surgical equipment and tools to perform endoscopic spine surgery.
- How many surgeries has the surgeon performed on patients with conditions similar to yours. In general, the more patients the surgeon has helped, the more experienced he or she is. But when comparing one surgeon with another, keep in mind that some conditions (eg, spondylolisthesis) may not be as common as others (eg, lumbar disc herniation). And that may be reflected in the number of patients the surgeon has treated.
- What the surgeon’s success rate is. Spine surgeons treat all sorts of conditions using different techniques (eg, open- and micro-surgery techniques used by traditonal spine surgeons, and endoscopic techniques used by endoscopic spine surgeons). Some of the conditions may be fairly easy to treat, others may be challenging even in the hands of the most experienced spine surgeon or endoscopic spine surgeon. So use a surgeon’s success rate as a reference, but don’t use it alone to make your final decision.
Step 5, meet with the surgeon
If a spine surgeon or endoscopic spine surgeon has passed your rigorous screening through the above steps, the chance that you can trust him or her is high. If you want to be absolutely sure about your choice, make an appointment to meet with the surgeon, or at least talk to him or her over the phone. The face-to-face meeting, or phone conversation, will help you and the surgeon know each other. It will also help you decide whether or not he or she is the best spine surgeon for you.
Choosing the best spine surgeon for your surgery can be time-consuming and difficult. It requires you to do some homework. We hope the above steps will be able to help you make the best choice for you.