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Why You Need a Second Opinion Before Committing to Spine Surgery

second opinion before spine surgery

The importance of getting a second opinion before spine surgery can’t be overstated. Unfortunately, while many patients who have been recommended spine surgery may want to get a second opinion, few actually get one. Many patients feel that letting their doctor know that they’d like a second opinion means that they’re second-guessing their doctor’s expertise, but this isn’t the case. Getting a second opinion actually makes you a better, more informed patient. Your doctor should never object to you taking an active role in your treatment and recovery. However, it’s important to keep in mind that getting a second opinion can help you determine if surgery is even medically necessary. In fact, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recommends seeking out a second opinion before spine surgery. 

Getting a second opinion can help you figure out the following:

  • Whether the potential benefits of a surgical procedure outweigh the risks.
  • That all non-surgical options have been attempted.
  • That you have a full understanding of the procedure and recovery process.
  • You understand what procedure or procedures are best for your specific condition.
  • If you qualify for a minimally invasive procedure.
  • That you feel comfortable with the procedure recommended to you.

Getting a Second Opinion Before Spine Surgery

Your doctor may recommend spine surgery, but the final decision is yours to make. The choice to undergo surgery is a serious and personal decision, making it crucial to be as informed as possible.

This starts with asking your doctor, as well as the doctor providing you with a second opinion before spine surgery, as many questions as you feel you need to ask. 

When it comes to spine surgery, different doctors take different approaches to treating the same condition. This means that different doctors will also recommend different procedures. Your first doctor might recommend traditional surgery because he believes it’s the best way to treat your condition. However, another doctor specializing in less invasive approaches will explain how that approach could be more beneficial for your condition. There are many different ways to deal with back and neck pain and speaking to more than one doctor will help you understand each different approach so you can determine your best option.

In addition to this, once you’ve gotten a second opinion, you can discuss it with your first doctor. The two of you can talk about the pros and cons of the different options you’re considering, and you can ask even more questions if you feel it’s necessary.

Keep in mind that your doctor should always respond positively to you taking a more active role in your health. If your doctor doesn’t respond positively, discouraging a second opinion, or even becoming hostile at the suggestion, you should consider this a red flag.

Research on Second Opinions

A team of scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Columbia University found that persistent pain alone is not an appropriate indication for spine surgery. Published in Surgical Neurology International, their paper argues that when radiological scans do not find abnormal results or neurological issues, surgery will not be beneficial to the patient. In their research, the team studied 274 patients who went to one of the paper’s authors. This author is a neurosurgeon and had also consulted with other surgeons. When surgery was recommended to a patient simply because they had back pain but did not have neurological deficits or significant abnormal radiological findings, the recommendation was recorded as unnecessary. The study found that 17.2% of patients were recommended unnecessary surgery.

In another study published in Surgical Neurology International, data was collected from 240 patients looking for a surgical opinion regarding a spine condition over a period of 14 months. 155 (65%) of these patients went to the author for a second, third, or even fourth opinion following a spine surgery recommendation. Of these 155 patients, the author determined that surgery was not necessary for 69. The other 85 patients had been referred by their primary care doctor or neurologist for a first opinion following their MRI or CT reports showing a presence of surgical lesions. The author did not recommend surgery for 37 of these 85 patients. 

The author states that patients deserve to work with a doctor that will listen to their history and perform a thorough neurological examination. The results of this neurological examination and any imaging reports should then be carefully correlated with the patient’s condition. The doctor should then thoroughly explain these results to the patient to provide them with a full understanding of their condition.

When to Seek a Second Opinion

Of course, if you’re recommended emergency spine surgery, for a traumatic event or injury, seeking a second opinion before spine surgery is not appropriate. However, if you’re surgery is not an emergency, consider the following before committing to spine surgery.

Some doctors will only offer one solution to treat your pain but with the wide variety of options available for treating spine conditions, it’s best to speak to another doctor. Consult with someone who provides a wide variety of procedures so you can educate yourself on as many options as possible.

Additionally, if your doctor recommends spine surgery before you’ve tried any non-surgical options, you should seek a second opinion. Many non-surgical treatments can provide pain relief in a way that allows your body to heal naturally. It’s important to explore these options before resorting to spine surgery.

Does your doctor specialize in the procedure you’ve been recommended? If the answer is no, seek out an opinion from a doctor who has received the required education, training, has experience with the procedure, and is board certified. Your health is too important to be placed in the hands of an inexperienced doctor!

If your doctor has not recommended a minimally invasive procedure to you, you should get a second opinion before spine surgery. Look for a doctor that specializes in minimally invasive procedures so you be sure that you’re getting the most up-to-date information.

Finally, if you’ve already undergone spine surgery and failed to get relief from your pain, and are now being told you need another surgery, get a second opinion. Research shows that each follow-up spine surgery has a lower and lower chance of success. Ask your doctor to explain the expected outcome of the procedure and speak to another doctor to determine if it’s truly necessary.

What To Do When Getting a Second Opinion

So, you’ve decided to seek a second opinion before spine surgery. What is the process to ensure that everyone involved is fully informed and providing you with the best information possible?

Start by asking your first doctor to send your medical records to the doctor that will be providing you with your second opinion. This will avoid you potentially having to retake tests. 

Next, call your second doctor’s office to ensure that they’ve received your records. Once you’re sure of this, you may want to write out a list of questions to ask during the appointment. This will be especially helpful if there are any questions you have that your first doctor has not answered to your satisfaction. You may also want to ask a loved one to go with you. Having someone else with you at the appointment can provide an opportunity for them to ask questions you may not have thought of or to take notes of what your second doctor recommends.

The Discseel® Procedure – A True Alternative to Spine Surgery

There are some cases in which spine surgery is appropriate but for many patients struggling with back or neck pain caused by a spine condition, it’s possible to get treatment for their pain without surgery. Getting a second opinion before spine surgery from a Discseel® Procedure physician will help you inform you about this non-surgical option available to you.

What is this procedure? The Discseel® Procedure is a non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure that has provided back and neck pain relief to many patients who were recommended spine surgery or failed to get relief from spine surgery. This procedure has allowed them to get back to the activities and sports they love without limiting their mobility or requiring a lengthy recovery process. After performing more than 4,000 procedures, 70% of our patients have reported improvement and reduction in their overall pain.

If you’re ready to do something about your back or neck pain, apply for the Discseel® Procedure today and find out if you’re a candidate!

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