Should Back Pain Lead to Surgery? - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

2/19/2006

Should Back Pain Lead to Surgery?

A survey by the North American Spine Society shows only one out of 14 people with back or neck pain will actually seek medical care to get it fixed. Even at those odds, that means about 500,000 Americans every year decide they want surgery to get some relief. If you're toying with that decision here is something you should know before your back pain takes you into surgery.

"I was picking up a box and something popped, didn't feel right. I fell to the ground".

"We got up to leave, and i got on the sidewalk, and i couldn't walk".

"Every once in a while, it would spasm, and i would just literally fall on the floor." With 48 joints in the spine, relieving back pain isn't always easy to do. Doctors agree on two things: try conservative treatments first, and back surgery is rarely necessary. But if you've tried everything and surgery is what is left, here are 10 questions you need to ask.

First, Doctor William Taylor says to ask, out of all the surgeries your doctor performs, how many are spine-related because "you want someone who concentrates on the spine; not someone who's doing it, you know, a little of this and a little of that." But University of Vermont surgeon Robert Monsey warns not to dwell on how many surgeries your doctor does. Monsey says "if you have a surgeon who does 100 of these surgeries, but he doesn't do them well, it doesn't help you that he does 100 or 200 of these surgeries". He says a more critical question is "do they have fellowship training in spine surgery?" because that shows a high level of technical expertise.

The next question should be if there is an exact diagnosis? If not, surgery is far less likely to work. Next, ask what will happen if you don't have surgery. Monsey says "that changes the way you might look at that procedure and determine whether or not it's worthwhile going through".

Question five is two-fold: what are the chances this surgery will help me, and could I be worse? "If they say the chance of getting back to work and relieving your pain enough so that you can work again is only 50 percent, you may say it's not worth it" says Monsey. The remaining five questions you need to ask are: What's the complication rate?, How long will it take to recover?, What is the exact operation i'll be having?, What happens if it doesn't work?, and finally, ask yourself, Do I trust my doctor?. "I think people have a tendency not to trust their instincts, too. If you don't like the person, or you, you know, don't enter into a therapeutic relationship with them." says Taylor.

Really these are basic questions you need to ask before any surgery. And Dr. Taylor says your chance of making a good decision about surgery is much better if you ask these questions and really think about the answers before you make the leap.

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