Choosing a Neurosurgeon

A Neurosurgeon is a specialist who is trained to diagnose, evaluate and perform surgery on the entire nervous system, composed of the brain, spinal cord and spinal column, as well as the nerves that travel through all parts of the body (hands, lags, arms, face). Neurosurgeon can provide a high level of expertise.  All neurosurgeons in the United States complete a six to seven year residency program.  By the time physicians graduate from a neurosurgery program, they have performed hundreds of procedures.  Many patients choose a neurosurgeon for the extra measure of safety then undergoing treatment.

Not every patient with back or neck pain needs a neurosurgeon. Usually, the patient’s primary care physician or chiropractor makes the referral to a neurosurgeon. Often, the neurosurgeon is someone the referring doctor works with. Or, perhaps the patient must choose from neurosurgeons listed in their medical plan. Either way, ask questions and stay involved in your medical care.

In advance of your appointment, find out if previous test results, such as X-rays or lab reports are needed. You may be able to bring these with you, or help coordinate getting this information to the doctor’s office.

The sample questions listed below serve as a guideline. It is a good idea to prepare for your appointment by writing your questions down. Answers to your questions can help you to make informed decisions about treatment. Consider bringing a family member or friend as an extra set of ears.

Questions about the neurosurgeon:

  • Board certified (or board eligible)?

  • Fellowship trained?

  • Devotes at least 50% of their time treating spinal disorders like yours?

  • Open to a second opinion?

  • Willing to refer you to former patients to share their experiences?

  • Comfortable having a relative or friend with you during appointments?

Questions to ask about your spinal disorder and treatment:

  • Can my disorder be treated without surgery?

  • If surgery is needed, what procedures are needed and why?

  • What are risks and complications associated with treatment?

  • Do you perform this procedure often? How often?

  • What is the success rate for this treatment or procedure?

It is important to trust and be comfortable with your neurosurgeon. Asking questions is a good way to keep the lines of communication open.