Finding the Right Doctor for Herniated Disc Surgery

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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If you plan to have herniated disc surgery, you’ll want a highly qualified orthopedic surgeon or neurosurgeon to perform the procedure. How do you find the best surgeon who is right for you? Here are important factors to keep in mind. 



Top Things to Look For

Find a surgeon who:

  • Is board certified in orthopedic surgery or neurosurgery and who specializes in herniated disc surgery
  • Has experience treating patients with your specific condition
  • Practices at a hospital known to have high-quality outcomes in spine surgery
  • Accepts your insurance
  • You are comfortable talking with and who fully answers your questions

Here are five steps to finding the best surgeon to perform your herniated disc surgery.

1. Ask Around

Start by creating a list of potential surgeons. Ask your family, friends, and other healthcare providers for recommendations. If you’re starting out without any referrals, or you’re looking for more options, search for orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons on Healthgrades.com. You can narrow your search by looking for orthopedic and neurological spine surgeons.

Healthgrades.com shows patient satisfaction ratings, which give you insight into how your own experience might be with the doctor. Patients rate the doctor and the doctor’s medical practice, and say if they would recommend the doctor to family and friends.

2. Research Credentials and Experience

Take time to research the doctors’ credentials and experience. Look for a doctor who is board certified in orthopedic surgery or neurosurgery and performs herniated disc surgery, including discectomy, on a regular basis. The more experience a doctor has treating your condition and performing herniated disc surgery, the better your results are likely to be. 

Also, confirm that the doctor is in good standing with state and federal agencies and that he or she has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. 

You’ll find all this information on Healthgrades.com.

3. Examine Hospital Performance

Herniated disc surgery often requires a team of highly skilled and experienced healthcare professionals. For this reason, you should also consider the overall quality of care at the hospital where the surgeon practices. 

Find out where the surgeons on your list can treat patients; then research those hospitals on Healthgrades.com. Healthgrades evaluates hospitals on mortality and complication rates of patients while in the hospital for a range of common procedures, including back and neck surgeries. 

Ideally you should find a hospital in your area that performs better than expected (5-stars) for back and neck surgeries, then find a doctor who can admit and treat patients at this hospital. Avoid hospitals with lower than expected (1-star) results.

If a particular hospital falls short in quality, find out if the surgeon also operates at a different hospital. Otherwise, find a surgeon who treats patients at a hospital likely to offer you the best possible outcome.

4. Interview the Surgeon

As you narrow down your list of surgeons, call each surgeon’s office and ask for a consult appointment to meet and interview the doctor. 

  • Ask yourself if you are comfortable talking with the doctor. 
  • Does he or she respect your opinions and answer your questions in a way you understand? 

Here are some questions to ask the doctor:

  • Do you typically treat patients like me?
  • How many herniated disc surgeries have you performed?
  • What results do you usually see? Do you have outcomes data to share?
  • How frequently do you encounter complications from the surgery? 
  • What do you do to avoid complications or correct them if they occur?

5. Determine Your Insurance Benefit 

Your insurance coverage is a practical matter. To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your surgery, you need to choose a surgeon that participates in your plan. 

But keep in mind, just because a doctor participates in your insurance plan doesn’t mean he or she is a high-quality doctor. You still need to consider the doctor’s experience and expertise.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jul 29
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Herniated Disk in the Lower Back.
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00534