What 5 Things You Should Look for in a Great Spine Surgeon?

Searching the internet for a spine surgeon in a large metropolitan area can produce an extensive and daunting list. With so many spine surgeons to choose from, how do you determine which one is right for you? How do you evaluate their skills and reputation? Listed below you will find five unique ways to differentiate average spine surgeons from great spine surgeons. 


1. The best spine surgeons operate on less than five percent of their patients.

There are always cases when surgery is the best solution for a patient. However, great spine surgeons exhaust all conservative options first. Many patients get pain relief from spine-related conditions with conservative treatments such as physical therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications. Some patients who continue to suffer do well with pain management options such as epidural injections and nonsurgical procedures.  Good surgeons reserve surgery for only select patients who are good candidates, whom they know will respond well to surgery.


2. The best spine surgeons listen and never rush their patients

A great surgeon possesses compassion, empathy, and excellent listening and interpersonal skills. They understand the doctor-patient relationship is vital to the overall patient experience. Each patient comes with a unique history, social, cultural, and personal background. Great surgeons have excellent bedside manners, compassion, and realize how much pain can affect one’s happiness, relationships, and work. The best surgeons know that treating the whole person, not just spine symptoms, is how they achieve the best patient outcomes.

Many spine surgeons see too many patients and are limited to about 5 minutes to evaluate a patient’s needs and condition. Great surgeons see fewer patients, realizing that quality over quantity leads to better outcomes and patient satisfaction. Patients deserve ample time with a surgeon when making a crucial and sometimes life-altering decision to have spine surgery. A concierge spine surgeon typically spends about 45 minutes going over a patient’s medical history, diagnostic imaging and listening in detail to a patient about their painful condition, concerns, and desires. 


3. The best spine surgeons are open-minded to a multi-disciplinary team approach. 

Treating patients suffering from a spine-related condition requires a spine surgeon who recognizes and works with all pain-related specialists. Great spine surgeons are humble and acknowledge all medical providers that are involved in a patient’s pain journey. Patients typically seek treatment with primary care, and chiropractic doctors first when suffering from neck and back pain. They often utilize physical therapy, psychotherapists, and pain management doctors as an exhaustive approach to receiving pain relief. When these medical efforts fail, patients are referred to see a spine surgeon for further evaluation and surgical intervention if needed.

Spine surgeons realize that surgery is not always the right answer for every patient. They collaborate with these medical specialists to develop a comprehensive treatment approach. 

4. The best spine surgeons are always advancing their knowledge and skills.

A great spine surgeon is fellowship-trained, and board-certified in a spine focused discipline. They continue to advance their education and training, seeking to add the most innovative advanced surgical techniques that can improve the patient’s quality of life. 

One such innovation is the development of least invasive spine surgery as a bridge between pain management and minimally invasive spine surgery. One such least invasive surgical technique is called endoscopic spine surgery. Through a ½ inch incision (smallest we know of in spine surgery), the surgeon introduces an endoscope attached to an HD camera directly to the pain generator in the spine. This least invasive approach through the smallest incision (we know of) minimizes scarring, collateral damage and leads to a faster recovery and quicker return to work.   


5. Patients rave about the best spine surgeons.

We have all searched online, looking at reviews on the products and services we buy. Why wouldn’t we do the same when we are looking for a spine surgeon? When searching for a surgeon we must look at their online reviews on Google or health sites such as Healthgrades.  In addition, look for patient video testimonials describing their experience with a surgeon. Great surgeons know they are only as good as their success and satisfaction of their patients. The best surgeons seek out feedback from their patients to continually evolve their practice and improve their staff’s communication and service to build an impeccable reputation.



At the International Spine Institute, we know that the patient’s pain journey is difficult.  We strive to understand and exceed our patient’s needs through our concierge spine surgery program.  Our patient’s time is valuable, and we are committed to delivering compassionate, understanding and convenient care.  Unlike most spine surgeon practices who see upwards of 60 patients a day, Dr. Marco Rodriguez see less than 20 patients.  He prefers quality time over quantity, allowing up to 45 minutes to meet and get better acquainted with his patient’s needs.