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Contemplating Surgery? Stay Informed with These 3 Tips

It’s rare that a person will live their entire life without having some sort of medical procedure, whether it be removing wisdom teeth or tonsils, or having an appendectomy or joint procedure. While most surgeries are performed to improve a patient’s quality of life and to potentially save or extend lives, some surgeries may be avoided by using appropriate non-surgical treatment options. Misdiagnosis or needless surgery may occur due to an uninformed patient, and can result in the need for subsequent medical procedures to correct the problem.

Chetan Patel, MD, is a world-renowned spine surgeon with years of experience in performing minimally invasive spinal procedures, including corrective procedures to address failed treatments that patients have received in the past. He says it’s very important to know what questions to ask a physician before committing to a treatment plan that involves a surgical procedure. Here are three ways that you can become more informed and make the best decisions for your health:

1. Ask specific questions and take notes.

Will this surgery improve my quality of life? Will I still have pain? What is the success rate and recovery time? Even if a question seems small and insignificant, ask it. If it’s important to you, then it should be important to your physician. If your physician is unable to answer these questions or you still feel uncertain after hearing his or her answers, then it may be time to seek a second opinion.

2. Get a second opinion.

Do some research and ask around for well-known physicians who specialize in your field of need. Consult another specialist and get a better understanding of your condition and the treatments available. Ultimately, the choice of your treatment is up to you, so take the time to weigh your options and do what feels best.

3. Learn more about your surgeon.

If surgery seems like the best option for you, then make sure that you have the best surgeon possible. Ask him or her about their experience and personal philosophies, such as: How many years have you been a surgeon? How many of these procedures have you performed? Do you believe in trying conservative treatments first before resorting to surgery? Asking questions like these will allow you to get a better understanding of your surgeon and help you feel more comfortable about your treatment plan.

Contemplating surgery can be scary and stressful, but being an informed patient can help you avoid having to undergo unnecessary surgeries and additional, corrective surgery in the future. Take control of your health by staying up-to-date on the latest medical news surrounding your specific condition, and always write down questions to ask your doctor at your next appointment. If you still aren’t satisfied, get a second (or even third) opinion and ask questions until you feel comfortable. Once you’ve made a decision based on a physician’s plan of care and diagnosis, be sure to find out more about him or her by asking a few background questions. With all of this information, you’ll be better prepared to move forward with your treatment – and you may even heal faster knowing that you’re in good hands.

For educational videos and up-to-date information on spine treatments and procedures, visit our free SpineU video library. If you are experiencing back pain, we encourage you to call Dr. Chetan Patel at the Spine Health Institute. He and his multidisciplinary team can diagnose and treat a variety of spinal conditions both conservatively and surgically. You’ll be back to your routine in no time.