When Should You Consider Spine Surgery?

Spine SurgeryHave you been told you need spine surgery? If so, it’s reasonable to feel anxious or overwhelmed, which is why it’s especially important to gather appropriate information you’ll need to be an active part of the decision-making process. Below are a few things to consider before spine surgery:

  1. Over 90% of back and neck problems can be resolved without surgery. Nonsurgical treatments include anti-inflammatory medications, ice, heat, spinal injections and physical therapy.
  2. Rates of recommending surgery for the same problem vary widely in different parts of the country (and world), suggesting that the criteria for surgery are not always clear.
  3. Surgery does not benefit every type of spinal condition. While some conditions have a high success rate after surgery, others have less predictable success rates following surgery.
  4. 98% of all spine surgery is technically elective surgery, meaning it should be the choice of the patient, not something mandated by the surgeon.

Spine surgery is only needed in a small percentage of cases. Before surgery, it’s important to understand the likelihood of success, the possibility of residual or worsened symptoms, the risks of anesthesia, the risks of the spine surgery itself, and chances of recurrence in the future.

If your surgeon insists you must have surgery or has not discussed all of the points above with you, then you may benefit from a surgical second opinion.

In this radio clip taken during last month’s American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) Annual Meeting, Dr. Boden shares more insight into spine surgery and when it’s appropriate. Listen>>


At Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center, our spine surgeons and specialists are frontrunners in the research, development and perfection of the most effective approaches to treating spine, orthopedic, and sports medicine conditions, and our teaching other around the world to do the same.

To see if you may be a candidate for spine surgery, complete our spine quiz. Click to learn more about spine care at Emory, or call 404-778-7777.


About Scott Boden, MD

Scott Boden, MDScott D. Boden, MD, is Professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Director of the Emory Orthopaedics & Spine Center. Dr. Boden started practicing at Emory in 1992. During his fellowship at Case Western Reserve Hospital in Cleveland, Dr. Boden trained with one of the founding fathers of modern spine surgery, Dr. Henry Bohlman. A primary original researcher on bone growth factor development and spine fusion technology, Dr. Boden is also an internationally renowned lecturer and teacher and the driving force behind the Emory University Orthopedics & Spine Hospital (EUOSH).

Dr. Boden’s Clinical Interests:
Dr. Boden’s areas of clinical interest include surgical and nonsurgical management of adult degenerative spinal disorders including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and spondylolisthesis in the cervical and lumbar spine. He was recently named in another Becker’s list of Top 50 Spine Surgeons in the U.S. and is a skilled surgeon with techniques of microdiscectomy, laminectomy, spinal fusion, and laminoplasty.

The Road to Emory: Education
• Medical School: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 1986
• Internship: George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, D.C. 1987
• Residency: George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, D.C. 1991
• Fellowship: Case Western Reserve University Hospital, Cleveland, OH 1992

Dr. Boden is the proud father of triplets who graduated first and tied for second in their high school class. He is also a baseball aficionado and coaches high school and travel softball teams.

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