How to Choose a Denver Spine Surgeon

The following guidelines will help you find a reputable spine surgeon in the Denver metro area.  Whether you have cervical spine pain, radiating arm pain or both, as these symptoms persist you may reach a point where conservative treatments aren’t enough to pursue a reasonable quality of life. Perhaps you have tried Ibuprofen, Aleve or Aspirin for several weeks or months without significant relief.  Perhaps you have tried formal physical therapy or chiropractic treatments without neck symptom resolution.  Or, maybe you are experiencing symptoms for the very first time and want someone trustworthy to guide you down a honest and safe treatment path.  What should you look for when choosing a cervical spine surgeon to increase your chances of receiving the correct diagnosis and treatment plan?

What does a Spine Surgeon Do?

A Spine Surgeon is trained specifically on the Cervical, Thoracic and Lumbar spine to diagnose and treat any and all conditions that affect these areas of the body.  A fellowship trained Spine Surgeon has training beyond a Neurosurgical or Orthopedic residency that focuses specifically on conditions that affect the Spine and proper evidence based treatment plans for these conditions.  A Spine Surgeon can alleviate symptoms and physical deficits that come from the spine such has herniated discs, bone spurs, spinal deformity, spinal instability, radiculopathy, neurogenic-claudication any many 0ther spinal disorders.

Are they a fellowship trained Spine Surgeon?

The human spine is a complex area of medicine that requires a specific focus in training and research for a spine surgeon to be able to achieve consistent successful patient results.  Spine fellowship training is a extended level of training beyond residency that is focused specifically on the entire spine and these intensive programs are nationally accredited by the ACGME (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education) in the United States.  Accredited spine fellowship programs are evidence based and up to date on optimal surgical recommendations as well as cutting edge emerging treatments.  These include minimally invasive spine surgery, surgery with Robotic Assistance and complex spinal reconstruction due to spinal deformity.

How to Find a Denver Spine Surgeon:

The following guidelines will help you find a reputable spine surgeon in the Denver metro area.

Who is the Best Spine Surgeon in Denver?

Coming soon: A new page of Denver Spine Surgeons that are highly regarded for their exceptional patient care and clinical outcomes.  Often, recommendations for who to see come from online reviews, a primary care provider, a co-worker or advertisements in magazines or online.  5280-magazine annually lists the top Spine Surgeons in Denver but they also concede that this listing is somewhat of a popularity contest.  Doctors who advocate the most for themselves with their colleagues are sometimes the ones who get on this list so that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best.

Does the Spine Surgeon have any past issues relating to patient care?

Are there any state medical board related restrictions for that doctor? Colorado DORA (Department of Regulatory Agencies) is a state government website that you can go to not only to verify a spine surgeons license, but also to see if there are any past medical legal judgement or other license restrictions against them.  Just follow the link below and type in the surgeon’s first and last name to see results.

Dora State License Lookup

Office visit and Spine surgeon encounter; Things to consider:

  • Is your Spine Surgeon on time?  In the world of medicine we all have experienced office delays and extended wait times, but there are specific things to look for that may be red flags.  If you are the first appointment of the day and your spine surgeon is late for your visit this can be a good indicator that they do not manage their time well.  It could also simply be that an unexpected event occurred that was outside of anyone’s control.  What this does allow you to do as a patient though, is gain insight  to a potential pattern of behavior for the spine surgeon you are dealing with.  The last thing you want is someone who tries to multi-task medical and non-medical events and you end up being what they are not focused on.
  • Does the Spine Surgeon seem rushed?  At a spine surgery consultation office appointment, your provider has likely encountered your symptoms many times in the past but for you this experience is entirely new.  If you aren’t the complete focus of a spine surgeon during the office visit you may want to seek a new opinion.  Is the surgeon looking at you or around the room? Learning about neck or low back pain, headaches, radiating leg or arm pain, weakness, difficulty walking, numbness, burning etc, are all symptoms that can take time to understand fully.  Does your surgeon take the time to explain the cause of your symptoms?  Do they offer you treatment options or is surgery the main option of their focus?  If you encounter a spine surgeon who says, “I can fix this,” but offers limited explanation and seems eager to get out of the room, you might be dealing with someone who simply wants to fill up their operating room schedule.  If your symptoms and diagnosis ultimately require a surgical treatment, you want that surgery to be the only surgery you undergo.  In the complex world of the human spine, you cannot afford to deal with someone who is distracted, disorganized or in rush because it will be you that pays the ultimate price: the wrong diagnosis, the wrong surgical recommendation, revision spine surgery, permanent nerve or spinal cord damage and/or chronic pain, just to name a few outcomes.
  • What alternatives to they offer?  When it comes to spinal surgeries the United States has the highest rate of operations in the world (Spine Trends). In many instances spine surgery can be avoided with alternative treatment avenues.   One example is how formal physical therapy can be utilized to improve mobility and surrounding muscular strength with the end result being resolution of symptoms.  What alternatives where given to you at your office visit and do you understand those options?  If not, you have another indication that you should seek another spine surgeon for guidance and treatment.
  • What is their success rate?  In the world of Spine Surgery outcomes and success rate can often be difficult to define and standardize.  Where someone practices or what types of surgery they specialize in can change outcomes and success rate to a great degree.  What you are really looking for with this question is; does this particular spine surgeon track their outcomes in any way?  Do they have an idea of what their infection rate is? How many patients need a follow up or revision spinal surgery?  If you ask these types of questions during your office visit and you see get non specific answers from the spine surgeon sitting across from you; you are dealing with someone who doesn’t prioritize outcomes.  A spine surgeon who doesn’t prioritize outcomes is probably not the provider to guide you through your spine treatment plan.

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