The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
So you’ve been told that you need spine surgery. The first two questions that come to your mind are what needs to be done and why?
This is quickly followed by who should do it and is it really necessary to fix my problem? Being told that you need surgery can be just as scary as the surgery itself. Spine surgery over the years has developed a bad reputation that has been entirely based on poor outcomes from outdated surgical techniques.
These procedures often left patients in worse condition than they originally started. Recent advances in minimally invasive medical technology and true atraumatic minimally invasive surgical techniques have made Spinal Surgery a more viable option to correct the pain and debility caused by back and neck related conditions.
So how you can tell the good from the bad? There are many different factors that directly affect whether or not you will have a good outcome or a bad outcome in your spine surgery. S-P-I-N-E is an acronym associated with 5 core areas you should consider before agreeing to any spinal surgery procedure.
Surgeon’s background is one the most important areas to check.
What type of surgeon do I need? There are two types of surgeons who operate on the spine with two completely different approaches to their education and technique. These two are Orthopaedic Surgeons and Neurosurgeons. Orthopaedic Surgeons are specifically educated to treat injuries, fractures, misalignment and degenerative diseases of the musculoskeletal system of your body.
Neurosurgeons are educated specifically for the prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of disorders which affect any portion of the nervous system. A fellowship trained spine surgeon does spine only procedures for a full year in an accredited spine educational center.A continued education program in spine may only consist of brief training periods that may not include procedures.
Patient Outcomes are important because it shows a proven record of successful treatment by a surgeon. There are several nationally standardized ways to track outcomes from a surgical procedure. Two commonly used questionnaires are the Oswestry Disability Index and the Rand Short Form 36. These are great tools for determining the effectiveness of a treatment. The Oswestry Disability Index tracks the overall disability caused by a condition over the course of treatment. An initial questionnaire is completed prior to surgery to indicate the relative level of disability. Questionnaires are then filled out periodically at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year to track improvement in disability.
The Rand Short Form 36 Questionnaire is filled out 1 year post-operative. The primary purpose of this questionnaire is to track the overall health of the patient and how treatment has affected their health physically and emotionally.
Patient testimonials are also a great resource to determine the quality of treatment provided by a surgeon. In your search for a spine surgeon, you should always check patient outcomes!
Invasiveness of procedures can be greatly altered by the surgeons approach to the surgery. There is the traditional “open” procedure approach and the true atraumatic minimally invasive approach. In an open procedure, a very large incision is made in order to access the spine directly. An open procedure in spine surgery is extremely invasive and results in increased blood loss, damage to the muscles and a prolonged operative time.
Hospital stays are double to triple that of a minimally invasive procedure as a direct result of the trauma caused to the body. The recovery period of an open procedure can be up to a year or more. In a true atraumatic minimally invasive approach, several smaller incisions are made in order to access the spine. An atraumatic minimally invasive approach is less invasive because instead of needlessly cutting muscle, a blunt dissection is performed. The big difference beyond less blood loss and faster recovery period is that these procedures, in some instances, can be done as an outpatient procedure requiring no hospital stay.
Necessity of treatment based upon your clinical diagnosis. Simply put, is the proposed treatment the best answer for your condition long term? Can the problem be conservatively managed through weight loss, correcting posture, quitting smoking, physical therapy, or injections? In some cases, surgical intervention is the only way to correct a condition. In the event you do not feel comfortable with the proposed plan of care, you should always seek a second opinion.
Educate yourself! At the end of the day, you are your own best patient advocate. It is important to empower yourself with knowledge about your diagnosis so that you can better understand what is required to conservatively manage or correct it.
Understand Your Treatment Options To learn more or for educational materials, contact the experts at
Southwest Florida Spine Institute at 941-258-3690,
or visit us online at www.SouthwestFloridaSpineInstitute.com.
There are multiple websites on the internet that are invaluable resources directly tailored to helping you understand treatment options and diagnosis.