Spine surgery is commonly performed as a last resort alternative after all nonsurgical methods have been exhausted, or when complications such as severely herniated discs or damaged vertebrae simply will not respond to nonsurgical treatments. With this knowledge, the ultimate goal of spine treatment is to reach the root of the problem, while causing the least amount of disruption to the patient’s lifestyle.
In cases when surgery is the right course of action, it is vital for you to play an active role in selecting the best spine surgeon for you. You should seek out a surgeon who specializes in spine problems rather than one who is non-specialized and conversely treats a wide variety of injuries, such as head, knee, and shoulder. As with anything else, practice makes perfect. The more a person does something, the more expert he or she becomes.
Dr. Radcliff is a highly experienced spine specialist, having performed more than 10,000 spine surgeries.
“I caution patients to do their homework on their choice of physician – not every doctor who does procedures on the spine is a capable trained spine surgeon,” Dr. Radcliff says. “There are some doctors who will start to do spine procedures after a weekend course! It takes six to seven years to become trained to do spine surgery, including fusions. If you need a surgical procedure, you owe it to yourself to see a qualified surgeon.”
Dr. Radcliff helps patients exhaust non-surgical treatment options for back and neck pain in advance of spine surgery. This can include pain-relieving spinal injections that can sometimes resolve the symptoms of a herniated disc without the need for surgery.
“Many patients benefit from spine therapy that makes the back and neck stronger, more flexible, and more resistant to future strain,” explains Dr. Radcliff.
“Too many times, we are referred ‘failed back surgery syndrome’ patients who either had unnecessary surgery previously or underwent a complex fusion with an open incision that created further problems. This is why we recommend patients get a second opinion from a fellowship-trained spine surgeon who is proficient in the latest minimally invasive techniques and instrumentation.”
“For example, of those who come to us for a second opinion where the first surgeon advised them to have spine surgery, many times we can recommend a non-surgical treatment option,” Dr. Radcliff adds. “For those who do need back surgery to address serious problems with herniated discs or facet joint problems, we are often able to recommend a minimally invasive spine surgery option that is less complicated, less risky to the patient, and enable the patient to be home later the same day.”