Frequently Asked Questions about Neurosurgery


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Frequently Asked Questions about Neurosurgery


Q: How do I make an appointment?

A: You or your referring provider can call our office and request an appointment.  Before we make an appointment we will need office notes from your referring provider or any other provider that you are seeing for your condition. We will also need a CT scan, MRI report or X-ray (depending on your condition) that is less than 12 months old. 

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Neurosurgery Clinic hours: 7 am to 4:30 pm, Monday - Friday
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If you're seeking a second opinion, please give us a call. (Second opinions are not provided via online requests.) We will be happy to have one of our specialists contact you to discuss your request.

Q: What do I need to bring to my first appointment?

A: A Compact disc (CD) of any CT scan, MRI or other imaging related to your condition. The facility where you had the CT scan or MRI done can provide the CD. This is a requirement for your appointment.

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Q: Why should I have a neurosurgeon do my brain or spine surgery?

A: A neurosurgeon is trained in diagnosis and treatment of the entire nervous system, composed of the brain, spinal cord and spinal column, as well as the nerves that travel through all parts of the body (hands, legs, arms, face). No other surgical specialty trains to the same level as do board certified neurosurgeons in the management and treatment of surgical conditions of the brain and spine.  Though many patients think of neurosurgeons as "brain surgeons," it may be interesting to know that the majority of operations performed by neurosurgeons across the country are spine surgeries. Neurosurgeons train in surgery of the spine including microdiscectomy, laminectomy, cervical and lumbar fusion and instrumentation during their entire residency training. Their experience is not limited to a one year fellowship or a few weekend courses as with other specialties that sometimes operate on the spine.

Q: When is surgery necessary for patients with spine problems?

A: Surgery is indicated for multiple problems of the spine, including, but not limited to, disc herniation, spinal stenosis, deformity, instability, tumors and fractures.  Surgery is typically recommended for patients who have failed conservative treatment and are still having significant symptoms, which inhibit their lifestyle. You should be evaluated for surgery right away if you develop weakness in your arm/s or leg/s, a change in bowel or bladder function, you have severe pain that suddenly goes away.

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Q: What are the risks associated with brain or spine surgery?

A: There are risks associated with any type of surgery. However, in the hands of a well-trained, dedicated, board certified neurosurgeon, these risks are quite low. The risks include paralysis, weakness, numbness, bleeding, spinal fluid leakage, wound healing problems, infection, complications due to other co-existing illnesses such as: diabetes, hypertension, persistent pain, hardware failure, need for future surgery, and failure to fuse. Before any surgery, discuss risk specific to your condition and type of surgery with your surgeon.

Q: How quickly can I expect to recover from surgery?

A: Your recovery is very individual. The single biggest factor in speed of recovery is probably the patient’s positive attitude and motivation. Other factors include age, overall fitness, and other associated medical conditions. It depends on the kind of procedure that you have. Some procedures, like spinal fusions, may require extensive exposure of the spine, and the recovery may take from six months to a year. With other surgical procedures, such as those done through a minimal invasive exposure, the patient may recovery more quickly - within four to six weeks.

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Q: How much pain will I have after my surgery?

A: Pain is an individual experience, therefore management differs from person to person. Some pain is an inevitable companion to most types of surgery, and the severity of pain is related to the type of surgery, the occurrence of complications and a host of other factors. The good news is that there are many highly effective medications to keep post-surgical pain under control. In addition to the benefit of greater comfort, experts say well-controlled pain can speed recovery and prevent long-term problems. Many patients report less pain after surgery than they were experiencing before surgery. The first few days following surgery are the most uncomfortable and your pain will diminish over time as you heal. Pre-existing medical conditions such as chronic pain, addiction or dependence, and past history can complicate pain management after surgery. Talk to your care team to develop a plan for your pain management.

Q: What plans do I need to make for going home?

A: Every recovery is different, but the more you know and the better prepared you are, the easier it will be. Plan for recovery after surgery by making decisions or delegating tasks in advance.  After talking to your surgeon about restrictions and length of recovery, consider if it will suffice to engage the help of family and friends or if you will need professional assistance such as in-home care, Transitional Care Unit or Rehabilitation. People are generally eager to help but may underestimate the extent of the commitment. Have a frank discussion concerning their ability to meet the demands, develop a schedule before you go to the hospital.  If you live alone or you are the primary caretaker of others in your household you may need to plan a short stay in a Transitional Care Unit (TCU). Talk to family and friends and have a TCU facility in mind before you are admitted. You will need to make arrangements for childcare, as often there are lifting restrictions, walking pets, and transportation to appointments.

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Q: When can I drive after my surgery?

A: First, are you risking damage to a recent surgery or treatment by driving? If you need to protect a body part with immobilization, or if you cannot bend a joint, then you probably cannot drive. Driving involves specific movements that need to be easily accomplished before you can return behind the wheel. Your doctor can tell you when it is safe for you to drive a vehicle from this standpoint.

Second, you need to ensure that you can operate a vehicle safely, and respond to unpredictable situations appropriately. Studies have shown that even wearing a simple wrist splint can significantly impair your ability to control a vehicle, and reaction times for several weeks. Driving while taking medications that make you dizzy, sleepy or decrease your response time is illegal.  

Third, do not drive, if you have a new diagnosis of seizures or have been told that it is illegal for you to drive.

Q: When is it safe for me to have sex after brain or spine surgery?

A: The question of sex after surgery is a common one, yet it is one that many patients hesitate to ask. The answer is this: it depends on you and the type of surgery you are having. After relatively simple surgeries, you should be able to have sex when you are able to return to work and full physical activity. One suggestion is to let pain be your guide. You may feel like you have recovered from surgery, but pain is present when you attempt to have intercourse. This is your body’s way of saying you are not ready, that you need to heal more before having sex. However, in some cases, pain can be avoided with some minor changes in position. If your surgeon cautions you to avoid strenuous activity, such as running, brisk aerobic activity or shoveling snow, sex is considered a strenuous activity.

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