Questions to Ask Your Spine Surgeon, Part 3

By the rediscover Patient Education Team

Having any major surgery, including spine surgery, is a very big decision. Asking questions of your spine surgeon is important to ensure you understand the surgical procedure, you have the correct expectations for the day of the surgery and your return to home, and also understand your recovery process. As it can sometimes be challenging to remember all of the things you may want to ask your surgeon, we’ve prepared a list that you can print out and take notes on to help you to remember after your discussion.


Surgery Discussion Appointment

During this appointment be prepared to review and discuss questions you may have about the surgery. Keep in mind that some surgeries can have an impact on your ability to conduct activities of daily living for a period of time—this is an opportunity to fully understand any lifestyle modifications you may have to undertake in the days/weeks following the surgery.

Your doctor’s practice will likely have individuals that will support the process, since he/she may have limited time. It can be valuable to interact with this support staff if you have questions regarding physical therapy, or other non-procedure related questions. Your goals for this visit should be to learn as much as you can about the procedure being recommended for you, and any preparations you may need to undertake in order to be ready for the procedure.

Print out the below and bring to your evaluation appointment so you can ask your spine surgeon or their support staff.


Questions to Ask:

  • What is the name of the surgery you are recommending?

  • Why are you recommending this surgery?

  • Are there other types of surgeries that I may want to consider?

  • Are there further tests you will be conducting to ensure I am a viable candidate for this

    surgery? Could you explain them?

  • How many times have you performed this surgery?

    • What has been your experience with utilizing this surgical treatment on other patients?

    • Do you have other patients that have received this procedure that I can speak with?

  • Will you please explain the surgical procedure in detail?

    • How long is the surgery expected to take?

    • What are the pros and cons of this surgery?

    • What are the risks of this surgery?

    • Are there any potential complications associated with this procedure?

    • Is there a minimally-invasive option for this procedure? Do you perform it?

    • What visible scarring will likely take place after the procedure?

    • Do I need a blood transfusion? Can I donate my own blood?

    • Who else will be in the operating room during my surgery?

    • Will you personally perform my surgery? Or will a fellow or student?

  • Will my insurance cover the surgery? After care?

  • What happens if you find another problem with my spine during the procedure?

    • Will you correct that problem too?

  • How will this surgical procedure help alleviate my symptoms?

  • What does the clinical research indicate the surgical outcomes are for this surgery?

  • How does my current health affect the surgical procedure?

  • If I would like a second opinion, will you please recommend another spine surgeon?

  • What is recovery like after this procedure?

    • Will I be in pain after the procedure? For how long?

    • How long will I be in the hospital?

    • What care will I need when I go home? What equipment will I need?

    • What activities will I be able to do after the procedure? What should I not do?

    • How do I alleviate any pain? What pain medicine will I be given? Is it addictive?

    • What expectations do you have for my recovery?

Stay tuned for the upcoming fourth and final part of this series, coming soon!

Important Note: The patient information presented is for general education purposes only. As with any spine surgery, there are potential benefits, complications, and risks associated with disc replacement and spinal fusion procedures. Individual results may vary. It is important that you discuss the possible risks and potential benefits of various procedures with your doctor prior to receiving treatment, and that you rely on your physician’s best judgment. Only your doctor can determine whether you are a suitable candidate for a specific surgical procedure.

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