The Importance Of Psychological Screenings Before Spine Surgery

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: May 30, 2019

Spine Surgery Psychological Evaluation

As a spine surgeon, we want to do everything in our power to ensure you get the care you need to make the best recovery possible from your spine injury. It may be clear that surgery is the best road to pursue, but that doesn’t mean we can just book your surgery and prep our tools. If we’re going to help the patient make the best recovery, we need to ensure they are mentally fit for the operation and life during recovery. We do this in part with a pre-surgery psychological screening.

Presurgical screenings are important for both the patient and provider. The patient can get an understanding of the expectations during and after surgery, and the surgeon can learn about potential issues with the operation or the recovery period. Below, we take a closer look at what occurs during the presurgical screening for prospective spine surgery patients.

Presurgical Psych Evaluation

During the presurgical psychological evaluation, surgeons are generally looking for five things. Here’s a look at why each of these points is important:

  1. General Mental Health – The first thing we’ll assess is your general mental mindset. We hope that you’re looking forward to surgery and the potential it can bring, but we’ll also assess fear, anxiety or other negative thoughts towards surgery and recovery. We don’t expect you to have a perfect mindset, but it can help us understand how to approach the surgery as a positive thing in your life, because patients with good mental health have shown to have better recoveries, as they are more likely to better commit to their rehab plan.
  2. Patient Engagement – We also want to see how engaged you are to the process. Are you simply hoping to be pain free, or are you working towards getting back to college-level athletics? Gauging what someone wants to achieve at the end of rehabilitation can help us set and manage expectations post-op.
  3. Stress – Even if you’re looking forward to surgery, it can still be a stressful time leading up to and following the operation. We want to understand your stress levels and what’s causing your concerns so we can take proactive steps to mitigate these stressors and make your operation and recovery as simple as possible. We’ll want to know what’s causing stress or anxiety related to your operation and in other aspects of your life.
  4. Work Ethic – We also like to assess our patient’s work ethic, because their job begins once our job ends. We don’t want a patient to be dissatisfied with the result of their surgery because they did not commit to the rigorous physical therapy demands that were needed after the operation. At a minimum, we want to set expectations for life after surgery so there are no surprises. We’ll also express how important certain aspects are to your recovery with the hope that you’ll increase your work ethic in these areas, because we truly want you to make the best possible recovery.
  5. Opioid Risk – Finally, a presurgical psych evaluation helps us evaluate a person’s risk of dependance to pain medications. If we suspect certain vulnerabilities, or you have concerns about taking painkillers, we’ll work with you to ensure they are used in the best capacity following an operation. This is one of the most important aspects of the presurgical evaluation, but also often the toughest to gauge.

For more information about spine conditions or consultations, contact Dr. Sinicropi today.

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