The decision to have back surgery can be scary for some patients. There may be uncertainty about your diagnosis, how your surgeon is choosing to treat it, and what recovery will be like. We recommend having an open conversation with your healthcare provider about your surgery and asking lots of questions. Here are some questions we recommend asking:
- What does my diagnosis mean, in lay terms? Asking what your diagnosis means encourages your surgeon to explain your diagnosis in a way that makes sense. Often times, surgeons’ default is to explain a diagnosis in medical terms. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You need to have a clear understanding of your diagnosis before you can make an informed decision about your treatment options.
- What treatment options do I have, in addition to surgery? There are conservative treatment options for chronic back and leg pain that should be considered, in addition to surgery. Know your options and how they may provide relief, from your symptoms.
- If I choose to have surgery, what surgery would you recommend? Ask your surgeon to recommend a procedure specific to your indication(s). Be prepared to take notes and write down his/her recommendation. Then take time to research that procedure, along with any associated risks or benefits. Bring along a family member or friend to help take notes and/or ask questions.
- Why do you recommend that surgery? Asking the surgeon why he/she recommends the surgery can give you extra information about why he/she personally prefers one surgery over another. Maybe the surgeon has performed the procedure many times and feels comfortable recommending it for your particular situation. Or perhaps the preferred surgery has a shorter operating time, making it possible to schedule the surgery sooner.
- Can I talk to other patients who have had the same procedure? Many surgeons recognize that their perspective is limited. and are happy to let you speak to other patients they’ve treated. Talking to a patient can give you a first-hand perspective on what it’s like to experience surgery, from diagnosis through recovery. They can answer questions about what to expect after surgery and during recovery. If you are indicated for an XLIF® procedure, you can ask an Ambassador about their journey.
Whatever your diagnosis and treatment options, be sure to discuss the potential risks, benefits, and complications with your healthcare provider, prior to receiving treatment. Ask lots of questions and rely on your surgeon’s judgment to choose a treatment option that works best for you.