05 Feb Five reasons most people are afraid of spine surgery?
1)Fear.– We all grew up being afraid of the injection our family doctor used to give us. So it’s but natural to be afraid if the treating surgeon starts suggesting you surgery. Anyone would have fear of surgery.
The problem lies in not graduating beyond that fear, not understanding properly the problem and the different solutions that the doctor advises. Our thoughts just freeze at the mention of surgery. But moving beyond the fear, analysing the information received from the doctor, revisiting him/her to clear doubt is what most people avoid. They get stuck at fear.
2)Bad experience in family/friends.– Another common reason is to have heard about someone close having a bad experience after surgery. The risk of paralysis is mentioned most often, which is a very rare event. But in reality, most people are unaware of the reasons why the surgery in that relative/ friend was done, or his/her condition prior to undergoing surgery. These are critical issues which have effect on the surgery results. Unfortunately everyone’s opinion adds up to a grand confusion in patients mind.
(Also read my other blogpost- what are the 21st century risks of spine surgery.)
3)Mismatch in expectations.– Many times in our country patients do not understand the nature of their problem adequately. Most doctors like it when patients take interest in understanding their issue, ask related questions and know all the options of treatment. The awareness thus created, helps them take proper decisions and helps the doctor too. For example- Most spine doctors would not advise surgery for routine wear and tear related low back pain only. The surgery is mostly advised to relieve the pain in the legs, improve walking distance and or avoid a potentially disastrous complication of paralysis of legs (and loss of control over urination/motion). The aim of surgery is not to cure back pain. This leads to a mismatch between doctors and patients expectation from surgery.
4)Worry about life after surgery.– Most patients I counsel for surgery are worried about the quality of life after surgery (especially, will I be able to walk again, will I be bedridden, can I bend and sit on floor?). For most spine surgeries done for routine issues (neck surgery, low back surgery) this is not at all a problem. Bending and sitting after spine surgery is allowed after a gap of few months. We definitely emphasise on maintaining your body weight and exercises which improves quality of life after surgery. Engaging in competitive sports after surgery is possible with proper guidance from the doctor, training and motivation.
5)Finances.– In India, majority of our patients are not medically insured and pay the hospital bills from their own savings. Awareness about health care insurance is rising in metros and in other small districts too. The cost of spine surgery in India for routine cases can be from ₹ 80,000 to 1.70 lakhs approximately in a general ward of a tertiary care hospital (the cost increases with stay in twin sharing or single room, requirement of ICU stay (anticipated prior to surgery), use of foreign implants (screws and rods if required). Rising cost of hospitalisation is a concern worldwide. It’s is more so for our patients due to the lack of medical insurance. Thankfully many spine surgeries can now be done as day care surgery (admit with all tests the morning of surgery and discharge by evening/or next day-<24 hrs) or with maximum 2 nights of hospital stay only. This helps reduce hospital costs amongst many other things.
Any other issues you think when it comes to spine surgery? Do write your comments.