Finding a Surgeon Who Will Minimize Risk | Virginia Spine Institute
Insights To Help Get You Back To Your Life.

About The Author

Share This Post

Finding a Surgeon Who Will Minimize Risk

Authored by Dr. Ehsan Jazini, MD. January 22, 2023

How do you pick your back surgeon?

It’s an important question for anyone needing to undergo spine surgery, and for Andrew Brunson – it’s something he’s had to do twice. Once in 2016 – when he had a spinal fusion on his neck at a major medical institution and then more recently in 2021 – when came to see me for a disc replacement. 

“The first time I had a two-level spinal fusion and the doctor was highly trained and very experienced. The surgery worked but it was a very difficult recovery,” Andrew explains. “The fusion limits my mobility. I had trouble swallowing since it was in my neck area. I was weak for months and my voice lost much of its strength. It took me about eight months to get back to normal with my voice.”

Andrew is a pastor and speaker so his voice is his livelihood. After finally getting his voice back and feeling good for a few years, he was obviously very worried when he started having numbness in his extremities in late 2021. The first surgeon he consulted suggested another spinal fusion. Andrew didn’t like the idea of even less mobility in his neck – or the way the doctor described the procedure. 

“He was really cavalier,” Andrew recalls. “He said – ‘You may have to have your whole neck done. We’ll unzip you and this could kill you.’  I was also told I could lose my voice or there could be damage to vocal cords. I knew there could be trouble swallowing and paralysis is an extreme risk and I was afraid of all of that.

Getting a Second Opinion

So Andrew did some research, sought out a second opinion and that led him to me. From the start, we talked about how to minimize risk. I always want to be as careful as possible to reduce pain, fix their problem, speed up their recovery and get them back to living the life they want. Minimizing risk is also part of an individualized conversation I have with every patient. I do have a checklist full of lots of options and depending on the procedure, the patient, their life and activity, their goals and their needs – we figure out what we need to do before, during and after surgery to produce the best possible outcomes.  

Since Andrew was concerned about paralysis and losing his voice, I decided to run an arterial line during his procedure to monitor his blood pressure since a drop in blood pressure increases the chance of paralysis. I referred him to an ENT before the procedure so we could get a baseline view of his vocal cords. We had him get a bone density scan too to give us additional important information. Knowing he had a big international speaking engagement coming up in a month, we moved his surgery up so he’d be ready for that event. And because he had difficulty swallowing after his first procedure, I gave him steroids for a few days after surgery to reduce inflammation.  

Minimizing Risks

“Dr. Jazini took so many extra, precautionary steps and safeguards to minimize risk – especially compared to my first surgery,” Andrew says. “His care and attention to detail was really reassuring. I didn’t have any of those things the first time.”

I performed a disc replacement on Andrew in February 2022 and everything went well. “This second time around it was such a different level of care and I had a much better recovery,” Andrew explains. “It was easier, there was less pain and with the steroid pack I didn’t have trouble swallowing like I did the first time. They also gave me tips – about turning my head to ease swallowing and they let me know when swelling would peak. I got so much more information and that was really reassuring too. I also didn’t have the same weakness for as long and my voice came back pretty quickly. So it was a much better recovery.”

Most importantly – Andrew made his international speaking engagement one month later. The lesson for other patients in his story is – talk with your doctor – not only about the actual procedure – but about all the many ways they can reassure you and minimize risk so you can get back to your life as quickly as possible. 

“I really appreciated Dr. Jazini’s honesty that there aren’t ever any guarantees. But he did the next best thing,” Andrew says. “He was clear about the risks and then did everything he could to minimize them and that made this second procedure a far better experience.”

 


Dr. Ehsan Jazini is a board certified spine surgeon at Virginia Spine Institute. 

He has been the first in the nation, and in the world, to perform advanced surgical techniques in cervical disc replacement, augmented reality (AR) spine surgery, and robotic spine surgery. Dr. Jazini was the first in the world to perform Augmented Reality guided personalized spine implant surgery using artificial intelligence. As a leading published author in the field of spine surgery, Dr. Jazini was selected as the Editor in Chief of The Spine Health Journal for the National Spine Health Foundation. Learn more about Dr. Jazini.

Schedule Your Consult

Schedule

Reviewed by: Dr. Ehsan Jazini, MD.

Reviewed by: Dr. Ehsan Jazini, MD.

About The Author

Dr. Ehsan Jazini, MD

Share This Post

Other videos on this topic

Hear Why Patients Chose Virginia Spine Institute to Get Their Life Back

As Seen On Fox 5’s ‘Good Morning DC’: VSI Patient Shares Why She Made Her Spine Health a Priority

The Today Show Features Patient Who Found Relief to Chronic Pain at Virginia Spine Institute

As Seen on ABC News: Virginia Spine Institute Among 1st in the World to Perform Augmented Reality Surgery

Dr. Christopher Good Presents Exciting Results of Robotic-Guided Spine Surgery Study

The Risks of Waiting to Get Spine Treatment

Robotics & Technology in Spine Surgery

What is a Lumbar Spinal Fusion?

What is Flatback Syndrome?

Adult Scoliosis Treatments

Advances in Motion-Preserving Surgery for Neck Pain and Cervical Spine Conditions

Local DVM: Dr. Good Performs Most Advanced Robotic Spine Surgery

NBC 4: Dr. Good Performs Most Advanced Robotic Spine Surgery

Fox 5 News: Dr. Good Performs Most Advanced Robotic Spine Surgery

Endoscopic Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Advances in Spine Surgery

What To Expect After Spine Surgery

What To Expect After Spine Surgery

3 Options for Your Artificial Disc Replacement

Spinal Champion Barbara’s Scoliosis Insight

Spinal Champion, Rita

Spinal Champion Omar’s Medical Diagnosis & Treatment

Enhanced Recovery after Spine Surgery (ERAS)

Dr. Schuler Performs First M6-C™ Artificial Cervical Disc Replacement in DC-Metro

Surgical Scoliosis Treatments

The Spine Surgery that Helped Tiger Woods Get Back on the Golf Course

What is an Artificial Disc Replacement?

What To Bring To The Hospital Before Surgery

When Is Spinal Surgery Necessary For Back or Neck Pain?

When You Should See a Specialist for Back or Neck Pain

When To Call Your Doctor After Surgery

When to Have an Artificial Disc Replacement

WUSA9 Feature of Robotic Technology

Schedule a Consultation Today

Schedule Today