If you are considering surgery on your spine, it is crucial that you understand the procedure recommended by your doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask your spine surgeon questions about the benefits, possible risks and expected outcomes. Being informed can help you feel confident about your decision to move forward. Here are the key questions to ask your spine surgeon as you decide if you should have back surgery:

Why do I need back surgery?

Orthopedic surgery aims to correct an issue, restore function and provide pain relief to improve the quality of your life. Constant back pain can interfere with your job and daily activities. Prolonged discomfort can make you less mobile, leading to other problems.

Surgery is generally the last option a spine specialist will recommend if non-invasive treatments have not helped. Over the years, advancements have been made in spine surgery, including using less invasive methods that allow for quicker recovery.

Minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) uses small incision areas and a tool called an endoscope to operate on the affected area. This type of surgery has reduced risks and a shorter hospital stay.

Complex spine surgery is used when extensive reconstruction or repair of the spine is needed. This type of surgery may be necessary for herniated discs, spinal fusions, spinal stenosis or to correct scoliosis. Surgical treatment is also used to stabilize the spine after an injury.

To help you better understand why surgery is recommended, you can also ask:

  • Are there any other treatments available instead of surgery?
  • What type of back surgery do I need?
  • What are the potential risks or side effects of undergoing spine surgery?
  • What happens if I decide not to have surgery?

What is your experience performing this surgery?

Your surgeon should have the education and experience to perform spine surgery. Consult with a comprehensive spine center. Cary Orthopaedic’s board-certified spine orthopedists can answer your spine questions and share insights from past experiences with patients.

You may also want to ask additional questions to ease your worries about the surgeon or team performing the procedure, including:

  • How many patients have you treated with this condition?
  • What were your patient outcomes from surgery?
  • What is the success rate of this surgery?
  • How will the surgery be performed?
  • How many people are on the surgery team and what are their credentials?

How do I prepare for back surgery?

Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes before your surgery so that you will have a better outcome. Share what medications you are taking to reduce interactions. Let your doctor know if you have any dental work planned before the surgery.

If you have a high BMI, your doctor may want you to lose weight before surgery. Excess weight can increase risks associated with anesthesia. Smoking also increases these risks and can slow healing.

If you have diabetes, your doctor may want to monitor your blood glucose levels before, during and after the back surgery. If you have additional questions about how diabetes can affect your surgery, don’t hesitate to ask your primary care physician and spine surgeon.

There are many factors to consider before surgery, so you may also want to ask your surgeon:

  • Are there any medications I should avoid?
  • What can I do to shorten my hospital stay?
  • Should I follow a special diet?

What should I expect with recovery?

Your spine surgeon should explain what to expect after surgery, including how long you will stay in the hospital. You will not be able to return to normal activities right away. Your back surgeon should be able to give you a timeline for recovery.

You may start physical therapy soon after surgery, depending on the type of surgery you have. Rest is an important part of healing, but your surgeon may recommend that you walk several times a day to keep blood flowing.

You will likely need someone to help with household chores and heavy lifting. Follow your doctor’s advice to reduce strain on your spine so it can heal properly. When you are discharged, your doctor will provide aftercare instructions. You may also want to ask questions related to post-operative care, such as:

  • How long is the recovery time?
  • Will I need to wear a back brace? 
  • What are the signs of incision infection?
  • Will I need to take pain medications?
  • When will I be allowed to drive my car?

What happens after spine surgery?

After recovery and rehabilitation, continue to take care of your spine. There are several ways you can maintain your spine health after your last follow-up appointment:

  • Stay active to keep your muscles strong and flexible
  • Use lumbar support when sitting for long periods
  • Learn to lift heavy items correctly so that you do not strain your back
  • Practice good posture
  • Eat meals rich in vitamins and proteins

Learn more about spine conditions and treatment options: Spine FAQs.

Ask your spine surgeon in Raleigh and Cary

Nearly one million patients in the U.S. and Canada have spine surgery each year to relieve back pain and resolve injuries. If you aren’t sure that back surgery is right for you, seek a second opinion. Make an appointment with an orthopedic spine doctor to learn more about the reasons for spine surgery. Our doctors will take the time to answer your spine questions and help you make an informed decision. Call Cary Orthopaedics Spine Center today to make an appointment with one of our spine specialists.