Submitted by Neel Anand, MD
In light of the recent news that New York Mets’ third baseman David Wright elected to undergo neck surgery to repair a herniated disc, there has been a buzzing discussion on the impact of such a decision on Wright himself, the team, and the season. And most of the questions swirling distill to one: Is this the right choice given the circumstances?
Professional athlete or not, this is a question most patients grapple with when it’s time to consider spine surgery—it’s a mentally taxing topic. There are a million questions that dance around in a patient’s head.
- Have we really exhausted all other options?
- Will I make a complete recovery?
- Will what I’m giving up be worth it in the end?
As a spine surgeon, I can tell you that the patient’s health and quality of life to come are the major drivers of our treatment recommendations. And though some sacrifices may have to be made, sometimes surgery may very well be the answer that will supply the best outcome. It is equally important, however, for patients to be on the same page with the course of treatment recommended—both surgeon and patient must move forward hand-in-hand.
I can say with confidence, that for almost any patient (and I’ve treated many) surgery is not something that is even considered until other treatment options have been fully exhausted and have failed to provide adequate relief. In Wright’s case specifically, his treatment team made the decision to proceed with surgery after many tests, rest and anti-inflammatory medications and injections were administered and did not sufficiently alleviate his pain or improve his ability to move his neck properly. This kind of assertive nonsurgical treatment is delivered with the hope of providing a suitable resolution of symptoms that would deem surgical intervention unnecessary. Immobilization, medications to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain, slews of diagnostic tests (X-rays, MRI’s), and intense physical therapy are all front-runner treatment options delivered with the hope to avoid the next more serious step.