How to Find the Best Spine Surgeon

Best Spine SurgeonDue to the risks surrounding spine surgery, it is paramount that the best spine surgeon is selected to perform this type of operation. Spine surgery differs from more common surgical procedures because of the length of the procedure and the increased risk for complications associated with an operation performed within close proximity to the spinal column.

Finding the Best Spine Surgeon is a Process That Should Begin with Background Research

Choosing a top surgeon is a process that should involve careful research, investigation, and evaluation of area spine surgeons by the patient. A thorough comparison of back surgeons should include a detailed review of each surgeon’s experience, educational background, and areas of specialty. The best spine surgeons are typically board certified orthopedic surgeons or neurosurgeons that operate almost exclusively on the spine. The majority of top spine surgeons have also completed a fellowship or advanced training in spinal surgeries and have many years of experience operating on the spine.

The Importance of Seeking a Surgeon Who Produces Successful Results

In addition to looking for a surgeon with extensive education and experience, a candidate for spine surgery should seek a spine specialist who is well known for producing positive results. After all, spine surgery is time-consuming and costly. While success often cannot be guaranteed, patients expect to see a positive change in their quality of life as a result of the surgery. The rate of success for top rated spine surgeons exceeds the average rate of success for all spine surgeons who perform similar procedures. As a result, the best spine surgeons are highly revered by their patients and they should be very willing to provide references.

Choosing a Surgeon with Experience in the Type of Spinal Surgery Required

When evaluating spine doctors, it is important to seek a surgeon who is proficient in the specific type of surgical procedure that you require. For instance, patients with scoliosis should focus on finding a back surgeon with extensive experience in spine fusion. Patients requiring surgery for spinal stenosis may wish to consider a surgeon skilled in laminectomy surgery. People suffering from disc degeneration would benefit most from a surgeon skilled in artificial disc replacement. And people who are looking for a minimally invasive type of spine surgery should seek candidates who are skilled in laser spine surgery.

Orthopedic Spine Surgeon vs Neurosurgeon

An evaluation of back surgeons will likely include both orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons with proficiency in spinal surgery. There are many similarities between these two types of surgeons. Both types of specialists receive four years of medical school training before beginning their residencies in their respective fields. And both types of surgeons are sufficiently trained to perform many types of spine surgery, including cervical surgery and lumbar surgery. However, neurosurgeons are more apt to have experience performing intradural spine surgery, or surgical procedures targeting tumors and disorders affecting the inside of the spinal cord. Orthopedic surgeons, on the other hand, tend to be more equipped for operations to correct spinal deformities and spine curvature disorders such as scoliosis.

The Significance of a Fellowship in Choosing a Top Spine Surgeon

When choosing a spine surgeon, it is generally a good idea to choose a surgeon who has completed a fellowship or who has sought other specialized training or education in spinal surgery. Following completion of their residency, some orthopedic surgeons choose to complete a one year fellowship in spinal surgery. Through completing a spine surgery fellowship, an orthopedic surgeon can gain exposure to 300-500 additional spine surgery cases. This is experience that cannot be gained by their peers who select fellowships in areas such as sports medicine, pediatric orthopedics, hand surgery or joint preservation. Orthopedic surgeons who choose to complete their advanced training in spine surgery have a distinct experience edge over their peers who completed their fellowships in other areas.

As in the case of orthopedic surgeons, there are some neurosurgeons that stand out due to their completion of a fellowship in spinal surgery. Upon completion of their residency, some neurosurgeons choose to complete a fellowship in a specialty area such as radiosurgery, pediatric neurosurgery, neurovascular surgery or peripheral nerve and spine surgery. Clearly, neurosurgeons that elect to specialize in peripheral nerve and spine surgery will be more prepared to enter the field of spine surgery than neurosurgeons who have not received this specialized training.

The Best Spine Surgeon for You May not be the Best Surgeon for Your Child or Parent

Many of the best back doctors have earned notoriety because they specialize in treatment of a particular demographic group of patients. For instance, the majority of the top pediatric spine surgeons operate almost exclusively on children and teenagers. As a result, they are often lauded for their results with patients who suffered from scoliosis. While this type of surgeon may be the best option for a school-age child with curvature of the spine, the same surgeon would likely not be the best choice for the child’s grandfather who is suffering from disc degeneration. In the latter case, a surgeon who is experienced with disc replacement surgery in the elderly would be the best choice.

The Significance of a Face to Face Meeting in Selecting a Spine Surgeon

After a thorough comparison of potential spine surgeons, it is beneficial to talk in person to the top candidates. A face to face meeting provides an opportunity to verify a surgeon’s credentials, experience and bedside manner. The meeting also provides an excellent opportunity to ask any questions about the operation or the surgeon’s rate of success with the procedure. Patients should not be afraid to ask the surgeon how many times he or she performed the surgical procedure in question. The surgeon should be open and willing to answer questions regarding his or her background and should be able to provide references upon request.


Selecting the best spine surgeon is a process that should begin with a thorough review of a surgeon’s educational background and experience. People considering spine surgery should never be afraid to ask questions, and a face to face meeting will be crucial in reinforcing a patient’s confidence that the best surgeon has been selected. It is important to remember that the best spine surgeon for one patient may not necessarily be the best fit for another patient. There are many types of spine surgeries and individual patient circumstances, and patients should choose a surgeon who possesses the best combination of experience and success with the type of surgery required.

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