From professional golfer Tiger Woods’ multiple spine surgeries dating back to 2014, to Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr’s failed back surgery in 2015 and its resulting complications, a very bright public spotlight has been placed on the efficacy of spine surgery. The understandable question on many an “average Joe’s” mind is: If it didn’t work for them, how can it possibly work for me? The answer to that question requires a much deeper exploration of the intent of spine surgery and the many considerations required of both the surgeon performing it and the patient undergoing it.
First, it’s important to point out that success stories abound for many people who have experienced enough spine trouble to lead them down the path of exploring surgery to fix it. Some credit their new pain-free life to their spine surgeon after a successful surgery because they believe they’ve been given a second chance at a fully functional life. These quality of life transformations are awe-inspiring, and as a spine surgeon, these stories of success are my greatest victories and deepest sources of inspiration.
Though I have made spine surgery my career and have utmost confidence that a successful operation can change someone’s life for the better, the fact remains that sometimes spine surgery does fail. Now, you may be thinking, why would a spine surgeon tell me this? The answer is simple: honesty. The truth is, there are many reasons why a spine surgery may or may not work, and it’s my job to ensure that every one of my patients and the public, who may be considering surgery, thoroughly understands the benefits and risks before deciding on any type of spine treatment.