There are few decisions as important as choosing the right spine surgeon. It’s crucial to carefully analyze the options and to make the best choice possible. So, we’ve created this guide on how to choose a spine surgeon.
When it comes to choosing a spine surgeon for your surgery, you’ll want to be very specific about credentials. It might surprise you to learn that there is a range of doctors who perform varieties of spine surgeries, and not all qualifications are equal.
We are not talking, necessarily, about nuances in medical schools and the training they provide. Instead, we encourage you to look at how your doctor was trained. If your provider bills themself as a minimally-invasive spine surgeon, it is especially important to ensure that they are a trained and board-certified surgeon, and not a pain management doctor who has “learned some procedures” from a weekend training course, or an anesthesiologist who learned how to do pain relief procedures.
While a pain management doctor may be permitted to operate in certain circumstances, our best recommendation is to ensure any and all procedures related to back pain surgeries are performed by a true spine specialist. The best minimally invasive spine surgeons, like our Dr. Baig, have dedicated their professional lives exclusively to spine surgery.
When you are examining a surgeon’s credentials, visit the website of your local medical board and search for the physician’s name.
We encourage you to only select a surgeon who is board certified as an orthopedic spine surgeon or neurosurgeon. And it’s best if they are fellowship trained. Dr. Baig, for example, is a Board certified orthopaedic spine surgeon.
Why specialization matters
Spines are complicated! They are made of bone, cartilage, muscles, tendons, and other tissues, all surrounding the core nerves that drive the body. Specialized care and practice is necessary for such precious cargo. You wouldn’t entrust your car to a motorcycle mechanic, so why entrust your spine to a pain management doctor? If you need minimally invasive spine surgery, turn to a specialist.
Your surgeon should be upfront about what they do very well. Some cervical spine surgeons specialize in cervical spine surgery, for example, and may refer you to another surgeon for lumbar spine surgery. Other spine surgeons may be experts in spinal fusions, or spinal cord injuries, or tumors.
At Desert Spine and Scoliosis Center, Dr. Baig specializes in:
- Spinal Arthritis/spondylosis
- Disc Herniations -Cervical, thoracic and lumbar
- Spinal stenosis – Cervical, thoracic, lumbar
- Radiculopathy– Cervical, thoracic, lumbar
- Myelopathy- Cervical, thoracic, lumbar
- Scoliosis – Adolescent or degenerative
- Degenerative disc disease – Cervical, thoracic, lumbar
- Spinal fractures
- Disc replacement surgery
- Minimally invasive surgery
- Fusion surgery
- Endoscopic surgery
- Other non-surgical treatment options
Dr. Baig’s “intense dedication to his patients coupled with his expertise allows him to take on surgical challenges that many other spine surgeons decline and to achieve outcomes that transform the lives of his patients.”
Discuss non-surgical options
Occasionally, spine surgeons are very aggressive in their attempts to convince patients that surgery is the best option. Cornell University’s Dr. Roger Hartl suggests that second opinions are a good sign of a reputable surgeon. He says, “If you see a surgeon who discourages you from getting a second opinion, that should be a red flag.”
Similarly, you should assess the specialist’s willingness to pursue non-surgical options or pain management treatments before surgery. Dr. Baig is committed to surgery only as a last resort, once more conservative treatment has been exhausted. He guides patients through a treatment regimen that considers all appropriate options first.
This way, you can always trust that when Dr. Baig recommends surgery, it’s because he is firmly convinced that it is the best way to help relieve your back pain.
Discuss Follow-up Care
Finally, you should discuss follow-up care after surgery. Ask your specialist, “if there is a complication, will they be there to handle the complication or refer out?” With doctors who may be qualified for some spine surgery procedures, they may not be able to handle complications after smaller surgeries. In these cases, a fully qualified spine surgeon like Dr. Baig would be a professional taking over the next steps; we recommend finding that fully qualified surgeon who can help you from start to finish in the first place!
Also, ask yourself, “are they easy to reach post-surgery?” Often if the specialist is difficult to reach before surgery, they will be difficult to reach after.
Pick a spine surgeon you are comfortable with
If your surgeon doesn’t make you feel heard and seen in their office, perhaps that isn’t the best choice. Dr. Baig sits in necessary consultations with patients and listens to them, his humble candor and sense of humor will help put you at ease. His surgery-only-when-necessary approach, combined with his desire to educate his patients means that you will always be able to trust his recommendations.
The best way to choose the best spine surgeon is to visit Dr. Baig at Desert Spine and Scoliosis Center.