When Back Surgery Isn’t Your Best Choice

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: June 13, 2019

doctors with spine x-ray and clipboards

Just because we perform intricate spine surgeries doesn’t mean we recommend an operation for every patient that walks through the door. In fact, for many patients we recommend that they don’t undergo an operation for one reason or another. Our top priority is to provide you with the best care possible, and sometimes that can be achieved through conservative care or other non-operative options. So today, we want to go over some of the reasons why we wouldn’t recommend spine surgery, and why an operation may or may not be a good fit for you.

Skipping Spine Surgery

Here’s a look at some of the factors that would lead us to suggest alternate treatments to spine surgery.

  1. You haven’t tried conservative care – For the vast majority of patients, a good spine surgeon won’t even consider surgery unless the patient has unsuccessfully tried conservative options like physical therapy, weight loss or exercise. Surgery may have a high success rate, but it’s very taxing on the body, so if there’s a good chance you’ll experience healing with a concentrated non-operative treatment plan, we’re going to make you try 8-12 weeks of non-surgical techniques before considering surgery. This only applies to non-life threatening conditions, as surgery may be a first option for tumors or conditions that could jeopardize the spinal cord.
  2. You’re not an ideal candidate – Surgery carries certain risks, but those risks are heightened for patients with certain medical conditions or who are older in age. We have to consider all the factors at play, and if surgery has too many uncontrollable factors, or we just believe there’s too many risks to account for, we may work to find a different solution that won’t jeopardize your safety.
  3. Conservative options provide the same success rates – Some people think that surgery is an “easier” route for the patient because the surgeon takes care of the problem and they just have to recover, instead of putting in work with conservative measures like diet changes, exercise increases and physical therapy sessions. However, that’s simply not true, because we’re going to want you to put as much effort into your rehab as you would a conservative care routine. Surgery is not an easier option, and both are going to require effort on your end, so save the scar and commit to a conservative care plan. For many conditions, they have just as high of a success rate as surgery, so don’t get in the mindset that an operation is your only option.
  4. Just Not Right Now – Surgery may be an option for you, but not at this time. If we believe surgery might be in the cards if conservative options fail, we’ll also examine other factors that could make you at high risk for surgery. We’ll talk to you about working towards a healthy weight, reducing or eliminating tobacco use, and managing any medications you take for other conditions. If surgery does become necessary, we want you to have these other factors under control, otherwise we may push back your surgery. We want you to have the best chance at having a successful operation, and that may include delaying an operation until some modifiable risks have been accounted for.

Even if surgery isn’t your best treatment option, you can bet that we’ll be with you every step of the way to help you find a solution to your back discomfort. To get a diagnosis for your back problem and to start a discussion about your treatment options, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.

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