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Tips for selecting a physician

Some simple research can make selecting a physician easier. Here are a few areas to consider with the physicians on your list:
• Training: What is the physician’s training? Make sure the spine surgeon is fellowship trained in spine. This means that in addition to the usual surgical residency requirements, he or she has completed a fellowship program in training specific to spine surgery.
• How many years has he or she been in practice?
• Experience: What is the physician’s experience in treating your condition? The number of years since completion of medical school or residency may also be a consideration. How would the physician describe the satisfaction level of his or her patients?
• Location: How frequently will you need to schedule follow-up visits? Where will the follow-up visits take place?
• Talk to the physician about his or her experience with the latest techniques and technologies in spine surgery. How many procedures have he or she performed? Is the doctor willing to refer you to any former patients who may be available to share their experiences with you?
• Comfort level: How comfortable are you with the doctor? Does the doctor take time to ask and answer questions thoroughly? Does the doctor appear interested and concerned?

Cautions :
There are also a few things you should be cautious of when selecting a spine surgeon. Avoid any doctor who does the following:
• Discourages or does not allow second opinions.
• Suggests “exploratory” surgery. With today’s sophisticated imaging technology, this is rarely necessary.
• Does not answer all of your questions (or makes you feel bad about asking them).
• Tries to influence your decision to have surgery. Remember, it is totally up to you whether or not you have surgery. Your doctor’s job is to provide you with enough information to comfortably make that decision.
• Bypasses conservative treatment options. Surgery should always be the treatment of last resort - when other non-surgical options have been exhausted.
• Is not forthcoming about treatments, techniques, costs, outcomes, and expectations for recovery.

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