10 Essential Questions To Ask Your Neurosurgeon Before Surgery

Updated on May 4, 2023

When you’re considering surgery, it’s vital to understand the process. You can’t just go blind and trust that everything will be okay. You need to know what you’re getting into and ask questions to help you make an informed decision.  

Perhaps you’re scheduled for neurosurgery. In that case, finding a neurosurgeon who understands your needs and wants, listens to your concerns, and answers your queries in a way you can understand is essential. Surgery is a big deal, and you want to ensure that you are fully informed about it before proceeding.   

That said, here are some questions you should ask your neurosurgeon before surgery: 

What Are Your Credentials? 

If you will undergo brain surgery, ensure your neurosurgeon is board certified. A board-certified surgeon, like Dr Timothy Steel, will have passed a rigorous exam and must meet continuing education requirements. You can guarantee that such a surgeon has had training in medical procedures, techniques, and technology. Also, a board-certified surgeon stays current on recent medical developments.  

The American Board of Neurological Surgery (ABNS) is the organization that certifies physicians as specialists in neurological surgery. They give a comprehensive test before they approve these physicians. As with any other surgery, you must choose a doctor who has undergone extensive training and has gained experience treating patients with similar conditions to yours.  

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For one, Dr. Dickinson from Dickinson Neurological Surgery is ABNS-certified and has completed an accredited residency program, usually lasting between five and seven years. It would be best to ask your doctor about their credentials, training, and expertise before scheduling your surgery. That way, you can be confident that they’re qualified to perform your surgery. 

How Long Will The Surgery Take? 

It would be best to ask your neurosurgeon how long the surgery will take. It is an excellent question because many variables can affect the length of your surgery. Neurosurgeons operate on the brain, spine, and nervous system.   

Your symptoms and diagnosis dictate the procedure you need. The most common procedures performed by neurosurgeons include: 

  • Craniotomies: In this procedure, a surgical opening is created in the skull to treat tumors or relieve pressure on the brain. It could take up to 3-5 hours for a regular craniotomy. On the other hand, an awake craniotomy surgery could take 5-7 hours. 
  • Spinal Surgeries: These surgeries include discectomies—removing a herniated disc, spinal fusions—repairing a damaged vertebra, and decompressions—relieving pressure on spinal nerves. They could take up to 4-6 hours. 
  • Brain Surgeries: These surgeries include removing tumors from the brain or performing aneurysm coiling procedures to repair aneurysms in blood vessels that can burst if not treated quickly. It can take anywhere from 2-9 hours or more, depending on the complexity of your surgery. 

What Are The Risks? 

There are always risks for any surgery, including complications and death. The risk for any surgery depends on your health, condition, and the type of surgery you will have. If you’re having minimally invasive surgery, it may have fewer risks than open surgery.  

Ask your neurosurgeon about their experience with similar surgeries and the number of surgeries they perform each year. This information will help you to understand their level of expertise and how experienced they are with this particular procedure.  

If you’re considering surgery for a brain tumor or spinal cord injury, understand the risks involved with this type of surgery and how they may affect your overall health. That way, you can prepare for any outcomes. 

What Are The Benefits? 

The answer to this question is simple. A neurosurgeon will tell you that if you undergo surgery, there are many benefits that one can enjoy. Some of these are: 

  • Improved quality of life 
  • Better mobility 
  • Reduced pain and discomfort 
  • Better control over bodily functions such as digestion, breathing, and other similar functions 

Knowing the benefits can help you weigh the surgery’s side effects and make an informed decision about the surgery. 

What Are The Side Effects? 

A neurosurgical surgery can be a complex and intricate operation that requires precision. In some cases, it may also require the removal of an entire section of the brain. When this happens, it’s crucial to understand what you can expect after surgery to decide your treatment plan.  

The side effects of surgery will vary depending on the procedure. It’ll also depend on the size of the incision that needs to be made. Some patients may encounter no side effects, while others may have more significant complications from their operation. Here are some common side effects: 

  • Nausea and vomiting  
  • Fever and chills  
  • Bleeding  
  • Infection in your brain or spinal cord  
  • Injury to nearby blood vessels or nerves  
  • Seizures 
  • Cranial Nerve Palsies 

Are There Other Doctors During The Surgery? 

Your neurosurgeon will likely be assisted by other medical professionals in the operating room, which include: 

  • Anesthesiologist: This is a professional that specializes in putting patients to sleep. They also monitor the patient’s vital signs during surgery. They’re experts at keeping people safe during operations, but they don’t participate in any part of the surgery. 
  • Nurse: They play a vital role in helping your surgeon perform your operation safely and effectively. Nurses assist with everything from preparing for surgery to taking care of you after the procedure. They may even help with tasks like drilling small holes into your skull or inserting wires into your brain tissue, assisting the surgeon if their hands are full. 

Will I Remain Awake During Surgery? 

Many patients have the option to be awake at the surgery. You can ask your neurosurgeon whether or not you’ll remain awake during surgery and what the benefits and risks are of that option.  

If you decide to remain awake during your surgery, you’ll be given medication that’ll keep you calm. This medication may make you sleepy but will not prevent you from remembering anything that happens during the surgery. Your neurosurgeon and other surgical team members will let you know what they are doing as they proceed with the operation.   

They’ll talk to each other while they work, and they’ll also talk to you. Doctors or nurses may ask questions or give instructions while working on your brain. In some cases, staying awake during surgery can help reduce bleeding or swelling after surgery. It is also helpful in diagnosing problems with blood flow in the brain. 

What To Expect After The Procedure? 

After the procedure, you’ll be brought to the recovery room, where your vital signs will be monitored. You may feel dizzy and tired for a few days after surgery. Your doctor will give you instructions on how to care for yourself at home. It would be best to ask this before the surgery so you can prepare. 

It’s not uncommon to feel some discomfort after surgery. To reduce the risk of infection, you’ll be given antibiotics before surgery and several days after. These antibiotics can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and constipation. You may have trouble sleeping at first because of your pain and discomfort, but most patients find that they sleep better after a few weeks. 

How Long Is The Recovery Period? 

The recovery process will vary depending on the type of surgery you had and the severity of your injuries. For example, after a craniotomy, you’ll likely be admitted to the hospital for several days following surgery. During this time, you may experience headaches, dizziness, or fatigue. You’ll also have a drain placed in your head to allow for drainage of any excess fluid that may accumulate during recovery.  

After any brain surgery, experiencing post-operative numbing or tingling around your ears and scalp is normal. However, it should subside within two weeks. Occasionally, there may be some facial numbness that can last longer than three months after surgery.  

It’s necessary to remember that every patient experience recovery differently. Some people have more complications than others. So, it’s impossible to predict precisely how long you’ll recover from your craniotomy. Nonetheless, it’s best to ask your doctor so they can give you an estimate. 

How Long Will I Need Medication? 

The answer to this question is not as simple as it may seem. The answer will depend on the surgery performed, how well you heal, and which medications are prescribed.  

Some patients can stop taking their pain medications after a few days, while others must continue taking them for months. Some patients may even need to take pain medications for years after surgery.  

Your doctor will be the one to tell you how long you will need them. It depends on your situation and how quickly or slowly your body heals.  

The most important thing is that you follow the directions of your neurosurgeon carefully to safely manage your pain with minimal side effects from the medications. 

Final Thoughts 

When it comes to your health, there aren’t many things more important than asking the right questions. And when it comes to your neurosurgeon, few people can answer those questions better than them. So, ask away so you can prepare well for surgery.