Fear of Spinal Surgery

I always tell patients that if they are not scared about the idea of spinal surgery then they need to see a psychiatrist! The idea of spinal surgery can be frightful so it’s completely normal to be anxious. Because the spine is a critical area, the idea of becoming paralyzed might even be lurking in the back of a patient’s mind.

The good news is that we are extremely experienced. Since all we do is spinal surgery, every procedure is done in a calm and expeditious manner. We are strong believers that surgery should be left as a last resort. We encourage all of our patients to try other spine treatment methods that allow the body to heal itself as long as there is no danger in waiting. Be aware that extended time in pain without surgery may lead to permanent nerve damage with suboptimal results and chronic pain, numbness or weakness.

Certain symptoms may develop which are considered dangerous and at that time surgery is recommended on an emergency or urgent basis. Such symptoms include: increasing numbness, increasing weakness and bowel or bladder dysfunction.

Alternative spine treatments to try before surgery may include:

Electric Stimulation
Epidural Steroid Injections
Facet Injections
Massage Therapy
Physical Therapy
Trigger Point Injections
Ultrasound Therapy

Risks and potential spinal surgery complications from surgery may include:

Chronic Pain
Leak of CSF from Dural Tear
Hardware Failure
Nerve Injury
Bowel or Bladder Dysfunction
Non-Union of Bone Fusion
Anesthesia Complications
Adverse Drug Reactions
Need for Revision Surgery
Failure of Wound to Heal

Please feel free to discuss these risks and potential spinal surgery complications at your scheduled appointment. We will take as much time as you need to review this information completely.

Are there complications? Absolutely, and it’s important to look at some of the common complications associated with your surgery. But be aware that there is much false information that surrounds the concept of spinal surgery. We have a special page on this web site dedicated to risks and encourage you to spend time reviewing it. You will see that most of the problems are minor and manageable. One of the best ways to allay your fears is to take a hard look at the statistics for the complications you fear most and find out how often they actually occur. You may be surprised to learn that some of the most feared complications hardly ever occur.

Most importantly, you need to recognize that the spinal surgery is being done to help you. Not having surgery and living in pain is not a good long-term option. For our typical patient, back or neck pain can be depressing. We see how it changes people’s personalities while also destroying the home environment. Pain creates stress between husband, wife and kids. The person in pain doesn’t sleep well, is grouchy and short tempered. Inactivity leads to gaining weight. The patient is “out of it” and constipated from pain pills. To make things worse, none of the treatments seem to give lasting relief and employers keep calling with questions about return to work. It’s miserable! So keep things in perspective and always weigh the fearful aspects of spinal surgery against the current reality of your life in pain.

We cannot promise that we will cure each and every patient, but we can promise that we will be there for you and participate in your healing with 100% commitment.