DISC Sports & Spine Center Releases List of Top Questions Patients Should Ask Before Spine Surgery

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Board-certified spine surgeons Dr. Hamid Mir and Dr. Richard Kim have provided tips to help remove fear from the spine surgery process by furthering patient education.

The goal of this list is to help patients become advocates in their own care and hopefully alleviate much of the apprehension.

Recognizing that the decision to undergo spine surgery is one often marked with anxiety, DISC Sports & Spine Center (DISC) has released a list of six vital questions patients should ask of their surgeons beforehand. These recommendations—compiled by board-certified spine surgeons Dr. Hamid Mir and Dr. Richard Kim—were developed to help remove fear from the process by furthering patient education.

“The prospect of having any surgical procedure may bring anxiety, but the delicate nature of the spine often elevates this fear in patients,” says Dr. Mir. “The goal of this list is to help patients become advocates in their own care and hopefully alleviate much of the apprehension.”

Adds Dr. Kim: “It’s about not only making an informed decision, but also knowing that you’re taking the right course of treatment that will yield the best possible outcome. Every spine problem should be viewed from the perspective of the least amount of surgery to accomplish the most good.”

With this in mind, the following is their list of six recommended questions, divided equally between surgeon background and treatment approach:

1.    Are you board certified in orthopedic or neurosurgery? Certification recognizes the surgeon as specialist in the eyes of hospitals, employers and insurers, ensuring that the doctor has met certain standards and passed tests that are developed to demonstrate adequate training in spine surgery.

2.    Have you completed at least a one-year fellowship in spine surgery? Beyond the residency every doctor is required to complete, a fellowship program allows the surgeon to further specialize in spine surgery with advanced post-graduate training.

3.    What percentage of your practice is dedicated to spine surgery? For some surgeons, spine is just one area of a case load split among other types of surgery (i.e., general orthopedics, brain). Ideally, your spine surgery should be performed by a surgeon who has dedicated the majority—if not all—of their practice to spine.

4.    What are the sources of my symptoms and how will surgery address them? In other words, is the surgeon letting film make the diagnosis, or are they truly getting to the root of the problem? A person’s spine may look terrible on MRI, but there may be a specific, localized problem such as a pinched nerve. Making the spine look better on X-Ray should not be the goal.

5.    What are the different surgical approaches to my problem, and their advantages and disadvantages? Spine surgeons, like many people, can get comfortable with established ways of doing things. The best approach is individualized, with the surgeon able to identify the problems, then clearly convey and involve their patients in a strategy that achieves the most improvement with the least amount of surgery.

6.    What are the chances of my symptoms improving, and by how much? Your surgeon should be able to clearly communicate the likely effectiveness of any procedure, as well as the timeline for achieving noticeable relief. If they have satisfied questions 1-5, they’ll have a rich history of case studies from which to draw.

Both Dr. Mir and Dr. Kim also stress the importance of getting a second opinion before electing to do any major surgery, but especially if your surgeon is unable to answer the above questions to your satisfaction.

About DISC Sports & Spine Center
DISC Sports & Spine Center (DISC) is California’s premier medical group providing the full scope of spinal care, orthopedics, pain management and conservative treatments. DISC has set a new standard for high-acuity, minimally invasive spine surgery and arthroscopy in an outpatient setting, both safely and on a more cost-effective basis. In partnership with Surgical Care Affiliates (SCA), one of the nation’s leading surgical care companies, DISC operates state-of-the-art outpatient surgery centers in Marina Del Rey and Newport Beach. Both centers are accredited by the AAAHC, have a zero MRSA infection rate and are conveniently located next to major freeways and airports. DISC, which accepts most major insurance plans, is also the official medical services provider for Red Bull and a proud partner of the LA Kings. For more information, contact 866-481-DISC, or visit http://discmdgroup.com.

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Kristien Brada-Thompson
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