View Full Version : What surgeons need to know

02-26-2005, 10:46 AM
Hi everyone,

I will be giving a talk to orthopedic surgeons at a conference later this year on scoliosis surgery from the patient's perspective.

I of course have my own ideas on what's important for surgeons to understand about their patients' concerns and questions, but I'd like to get your input.

If you had 20 minutes to tell a room full of scoliosis surgeons anything you wanted about working with patients, what would you tell them?

Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

Dave Wolpert

03-03-2005, 04:55 AM
Dave, many thanks for your invaluable book. I'm 3 months post-op and an oldie - 55, so everything taking rather longer than usual, but going to plan.

The main thing I have appreciated with the medics I have dealt with is willingness to give informiation and answer questions as fully as possible. I would prefer that there was enough time for this in the appointments (rather than getting rushed through and out). What I haven't liked is false reassurance - you'll be fine in a few weeks, etc., and lack of interest in difficult post-op symptoms - particularly ongoing pain that can't be well controlled, and the numbness and stiffness that many people talk about.

In the hospital, it was really distressing when nurses or doctors would get irritated by the pain. Conversely, an honest and sympathetic answer that it just wasn't possible to reduce the pain more, but they would keep trying to find a way, was genuinely comforting.

I suppose it comes down to common sense - full information willingly given, and a preparedness to meet with pain head-on, without evading it.

Best wishes,


Mary Lou
03-03-2005, 12:31 PM
Hi Dave,

I found your book very helpful when planning my daughter's surgery.

As for things to tell orthopedic doctors: 1) when dealing with teenagers, talk to THEM, not about them-trust me, they are old enough and strong enough to handle the truth and they deserve to know what is going on with their bodies. 2) answer all questions completely even if it means repeating yourself -the doctors deal with this stuff every day and to us parents/patients, it is all so new to us and usually is a lot of information to take in at one time. 3) listen to the parents when they tell you something-they know their kids better than anyone. 4) thank the doctors who are in PA for staying in PA-we are loosing a lot of great doctors because of the high malpractice insurance

Mary Lou

03-03-2005, 04:40 PM
Hi Dave,

My thoughts to this topic (in addition to what has already been said)...

1. Communication! Parents and patients need to know they can ask questions, and that its okay.

2. Maybe somehow having the docs understand the need to convey the fact that each patient is different. Treat each patient as though they were the only patient (for those few moments in the exam room). Makes a HUGE difference to patients (and especially parents) when they feel treated as a unique case, rather than a number among the masses.

3. Validate parents and patients fears, when possible. Fear is a huge emotion that drives many people to make choices. Fear shouldn't be a factor when choosing scoliosis surgery. Feeling validated makes fear less intense.

4. Be specific. Vague answers only feed the fear and uncertainty. If you (the doc) don't KNOW the answer, don't dance around the question. We all know docs are human and sometimes they don't know the answer.

5. If you don't know the answer, help us find out the answer. Be willing to go beyond your own practice, if necessary, to find the right plan for any given patient.


Now, if you don't mind, we'd LOVE to hear your thoughts on this topic. What, generally, are your thoughts on doctor-patient relationships? I'd be very interested in hearing what you are thinking.

Mary Lou
03-04-2005, 05:37 AM
I agree with Carmell and also, I would add that you have to let us know how the conference goes too.

Mary Lou