You could be forgiven for thinking that a spine surgeon spends every minute of their workday in the operating room. Not exactly.
First of all, spine surgeons, like all doctors, choose surgery as a last resort. If there is a more conservative alternative to surgery, a surgeon will choose that option. Second, spinal surgeons spend a lot of their time diagnosing patients, crafting treatment plans, prescribing rehabilitative therapy and doing patient follow-ups.
This means that doctors that perform spine surgery do a whole lot more than just spine surgery.
A spine surgeon and the role they play
There are two kinds of specialists that perform spine surgery. The first is the orthopedic spine surgeon, a doctor whose focus is to treat nerve or spinal problems in the back and neck area. They only operate on surgical sites located in these parts of the body. An orthopedic spine surgeon will also oversee their patient’s rehabilitation until they are completely well.
The second is the neurosurgeon, a doctor who treats medical conditions that happen as a result of problems in the central and/or peripheral nervous systems. A neurosurgeon will also correct damage caused by injury to the brain, spinal cord or peripheral nerves.
Unlike an orthopedic spinal surgeon, a neurosurgeon will often have limited interaction with their patients after they heal from surgery. A second doctor will usually take over to oversee rehabilitation and recovery.
When will a physician refer their patient to a spine surgeon?
A patient will rarely see a spine surgeon without a referral. First, their primary care physician will have to perform a preliminary diagnosis to determine the cause of the person’s condition. A physician will refer their patient to a spine surgeon if and when:
- A patient has acute or chronic pain in the back or neck
- An injury that affects the back, neck or parts of the nervous system
- A person suffers from a degenerative medical condition that affects the bones, muscles or nerves along the length of the spine
- A patient has a congenital deformity that affects the spine
- The physician diagnoses a problem that originates from the central nervous system
Many patients that get a referral to a spine surgeon worry that they will have to undergo some form of spine surgery. This is not always the case.
The different ways that a spine surgeon treats patients
Surgery is often the last resort that is employed when there is no alternative that can produce an optimal outcome. It then follows that spine surgeons provide other forms of treatment in addition to, or in lieu of, spinal surgery. Treatments like:
- Physiotherapy for patients with deformities or injuries that do not require surgery
- Fitting of orthopedic devices to correct deformities and injuries; these can be used after a surgical procedure, or in place of one
- Management of chronic conditions that affect the back and neck; arthritis is an example
- Radiosurgery of the spine to dissolve spinal tumors and lesions. This is a type of procedure that is often performed by a neurosurgeon
Most patients that actually need spinal surgery often need spinal fusion surgery to correct chronic, debilitating pain and loss of function in the neck or back.
The bottom line
If your doctor recommends that you see a spine surgeon, get in touch with our practice. We have a team of surgeons that offer personalized care. After a consultation with our spine surgeon, you will receive treatment that will cater to your individual needs and get you on the road to health in the shortest amount of time.
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