When a patient begins to experience back pain that will require a specialist’s attention, many consider making an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon to be the natural next step. While orthopedists do specialize in the entire musculoskeletal system and have training in spinal surgery, they aren’t always the right choice for every patient. While orthopedic surgeons are trained to treat bones, joints and ligaments all over your body, neurosurgeons spend their six to seven years of training focusing solely on your brain, spine and nervous system. This concentrated focus often helps a neurosurgeon have a deeper understanding of the delicate nuances of the spine.
In fact, a recent study found patients who are treated by an orthopedic surgeon are more likely to endure a longer hospital stay, experience complications from surgery, need continued care post surgery and require a perioperative transfusion. To be transparent, the same study also concluded that after 30 days the differences in outcomes of spine surgeries performed by orthopedic surgeons versus neurosurgeons were minimal, but the road from surgery to recovery was definitely more favorable when working with a neurosurgeon.
While Legacy Neurosurgery can’t speak for other neurosurgery clinics, we know many of patients who undergo surgery experience a smoother recovery process and less hospital time thanks to our commitment to minimally invasive surgery, which can often be performed outpatient. We have even recently developed one of the most advanced lumbar fusion procedure in the world, the MIG-LIF procedure.
Even with state-of-the-art, minimally invasive surgery techniques, we actually avoid surgery if at all possible, and can often get our patients back to life through a number of other treatment plans, including epidural steroid injections and physical therapy.
With all the above information, you may still be asking how to choose the right specialty for your spinal surgery. While we strongly believe the training and expertise of neurosurgeons often complements spinal surgery best, we think the best way to choose the right specialty for your issue is to focus on the surgeon. Regardless of specialty, make sure the person you trust with your well-being is passionate about their field, is highly-accomplished, has demonstrated success in spinal surgery – and ultimately – will treat you the same way they would treat a family member with your issues.