How to Choose an Artificial Disc Replacement Surgeon?

When it comes to considering a surgical solution for spinal issues like artificial disc replacement (ADR), the importance of finding the right surgeon cannot be overstated. In our Spine Talks on finding a surgeon, Dr. Todd Lanman explains how this procedure offers the potential for improved mobility and quality of life, but selecting a skilled and experienced surgeon is a crucial step towards achieving a successful outcome. In this article, we will delve into the key considerations for finding a qualified surgeon for artificial disc replacement and explore why expertise and experience matter.

Do All Surgeons Perform ADR?

It’s important to understand that not all surgeons have been trained in or are proficient in performing artificial disc replacement surgeries. Just like any other medical procedure, this is a specialized field that demands a high level of expertise. Dr. Lanman, a renowned spine surgeon, highlights that individuals seeking artificial disc replacement must conduct thorough research to identify surgeons with a significant amount of experience in this specific procedure. If you cannot find this information, consider asking your surgeon how many ADR surgeries they perform each year and for how many years.

Does Experience Matter?

Dr. Richard Guyer emphasizes the significance of experience when choosing a surgeon. He underscores that surgeons with extensive experience tend to yield better results due to the learning curve associated with any surgical procedure. The more a surgeon performs a particular operation, the more refined their skills become. This principle applies to artificial disc replacement just as it does to other surgical interventions.  

These types of surgeries are motion preserving or motion restoring, which requires precision in bone preparation and implant placement. Dr. Guyer highlights the intricate nature of artificial disc replacement. Unlike fusion surgeries, which have more room for error, artificial disc replacement demands precision and a deep understanding of spinal anatomy. It involves selecting the appropriate implant, ensuring proper sizing, and precise positioning to ensure optimal functionality.

What Questions Should I Ask?

One effective approach to finding a proficient surgeon is to directly engage in dialogue during consultations. Dr. Guyer suggests being candid and inquiring about the surgeon’s track record with artificial disc replacement procedures. Asking about the surgeon’s frequency of performing the procedure is key. For instance, a surgeon who performs the procedure occasionally might not be as adept as one who frequently conducts these surgeries.  Another question to ask is how many different ADR implants do they work with and what are their experiences with them.

Should I Get a Second Opinion?

Dr. Lanman advocates seeking advice from experts within the medical community. If a surgeon isn’t well-versed in artificial disc replacement, they should ideally guide you toward specialists who are recognized as authorities in this field. Dr. Lanman often encounters patients who have sought his expertise as a second opinion, having been initially recommended for fusion surgeries. This underscores the importance of seeking multiple opinions and exploring all available options. Ask your surgeon if you are a candidate for ADR surgery, especially if it did not come up in the surgical discussion.  

Technological advancements, such as telemedicine, have facilitated broader access to expert opinions. Dr. Guyer notes that telemedicine consultations enable patients to connect with seasoned surgeons even if they are in different geographical areas. This widens the pool of potential options and empowers patients to make informed decisions about their treatment.

Patient Education and Empowerment

Advancements in information dissemination, especially through the internet, have empowered patients to educate themselves about their conditions and potential treatments. Dr. Khachatryan acknowledges that well-informed patients are increasingly seeking out specific solutions, even expressing preferences for implant types. This demonstrates the growing awareness and involvement of patients in their healthcare decisions. Yet, some sources can be difficult to understand or misleading, so it is best to be open with your surgeon, be sure you are on the same page, and share in the decision-making process.

Take Home Message

In your pursuit of a successful artificial disc replacement surgery, prioritizing the surgeon’s experience and expertise is paramount. The procedure’s technical demands require a surgeon who has honed their skills through consistent practice. Seeking out expert opinions, asking pertinent questions, and leveraging technological advancements like telemedicine can help you make an informed decision. Dr. Guyer said, “ It’s important for the public to understand that a disc replacement is a difficult operation to perform and is more technically demanding, but it has a significant reward to the patient at the end when done properly.” Ultimately, with the right surgeon guiding you through the process, artificial disc replacement can offer a significant reward in terms of improved spinal health and enhanced quality of life.