Spine Surgeon Brisbane

12 questions to ask your spine surgeon before surgery

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If you’re thinking about spine surgery, you probably have a lot of questions. As a leading spine surgeon in Brisbane, I’m here to address your main worries and assist you with your decisions.
Spine surgery - Dr Alex Koefman, spinal surgeon Brisbane

FAQs Spine Surgeon Brisbane

Is spine surgery necessary for me?

That’s an excellent question. If it’s an emergency spine surgery, we usually have to act fast and it might be the only choice. Thankfully, this is very rare. 

“The first thing a spine surgeon needs to work out is if you are safe. If you are safe and it is not an emergency, then the main reason you need to consider spinal surgery is if the symptoms are affecting your quality of life.” 

Dr Alex Koefman | Brain and Spinal Surgeon Brisbane
Dr Alex Koefman

Spine Surgeon Brisbane

While putting up with your symptoms in non-emergency cases is also an option, it ultimately boils down to your quality of life. It’s all about how your current situation is affecting your daily living and whether spine surgery could offer you relief and improve your overall well-being. 

What happens if I don't opt for spine surgery?

Doing nothing is often an option. Many spinal conditions fix themselves naturally. During consultation, I will be able to tell if your spine condition is likely to improve on its own or get worse. 

“It’s fairly easy to determine this in most cases. What is not easy is determining how long this will take. Some conditions can take many months to improve on their own.” 

Dr Alex Koefman | Brain and Spinal Surgeon Brisbane
Dr Alex Koefman

Spine Surgeon Brisbane

This is where the discussion about your quality of life is very important when making a final decision. It usually comes down to this question: How much are you willing to tolerate your symptoms, and what are you prepared to sacrifice in your daily life? 

Does spine surgery experience matter to get better results?

When it comes to spinal surgery, the experience of your spinal surgeon really matters. The more of a certain type of case a spine surgeon has done the more likely you will get the best outcome. 

“A spine surgeon can tell you what they have done, but it is even more reassuring if there is a documented record of what they have done. That is why I record a video of every operation I do, and give you a copy of this video.” 

Dr Alex Koefman | Brain and Spinal Surgeon Brisbane
Dr Alex Koefman

Spine Surgeon Brisbane

This practice makes everything clear and open, while also building up a detailed collection that demonstrates my experience in spine surgery.

My video library is accessible here.

What are the other options?

There are usually 3 options in spine surgery:

  • Doing nothing, as some spinal issues resolve on their own;
  • Opting for non-surgical treatments like steroid injections or physiotherapy;
  • Considering spinal surgery.

“There are many factors I look at to decide what to recommend to you. The best thing I can do is educate you so you feel confident in the final decision.” 

Dr Alex Koefman | Brain and Spinal Surgeon Brisbane
Dr Alex Koefman

Spinal Surgeon Brisbane

The decision is very personal and different for everyone. It’s based on a clear explanation of your specific spinal condition and the different treatments available. My goal is to help you understand these options. If spine surgery is advised, I’ll explain why it’s the best choice, making sure you feel supported throughout the process. 

What are the goals of surgery?

Very important question. It is very disconcerting that some patients I see that have had spine surgery elsewhere do not really know why. A classic comment is “I still have pain but my spinal surgeon said the operation went well.” 

“This is a clear case of where the goals of surgery were not laid out or understood from the start.” 

Dr Alex Koefman | Brain and Spinal Surgeon Brisbane
Dr Alex Koefman

Spinal Surgeon Brisbane

It is critical to be crystal clear on exactly what it is that is trying to be achieved. Most of the time it is to reduce or eliminate pain, and improve quality of life. 

What will happen after spine surgery?

It can be really upsetting to face unexpected issues after surgery. I take this issue very seriously and give you a clear picture of what to expect from when you wake up, to the next day, next week and next month. I also lock in regular dates to see you as you recover. 

What can I do, and not do after spinal surgery?

It is very important to be super clear on this. 

“Unfortunately a lot of the time the patient is given a long list of dos and don’ts making them very confused and they end up just sitting on the couch not knowing what to do.” 

Dr Alex Koefman | Brain and Spinal Surgeon Brisbane
Dr Alex Koefman

Spine Surgeon Brisbane

I take a very pragmatic approach to the dos and don’ts. In most cases I encourage you to start walking, running, riding, swimming straight away. Getting moving after spinal surgery is very important. I will do my best to make this easy for you. 

Will I need another back surgery in the future?

This is a great question. Yes, there’s a chance that one spine surgery might lead to the need for more surgeries later on. That’s why keyhole surgery is often a good choice: It helps lower the risk of needing more operations. I will discuss this important issue with you. 

Will the spine surgery be open or keyhole?

There’s a lot of confusion about what keyhole surgery is and what open surgery is. 

“Keyhole surgery to most people means a small cut. However this is a major myth. Keyhole surgery is not defined by the size of the skin cut, it is defined by what happens under the skin.” 

Dr Alex Koefman | Brain and Spinal Surgeon Brisbane
Dr Alex Koefman

Spine Surgeon Brisbane

Keyhole surgery actually means surgery where the damage to tissues under the skin is significantly reduced. Open surgery is the way surgery has been done since the 50’s. Newer keyhole surgery has resulted from new natural passages to the spine being found and used for surgery. 

My mantra is ‘less is more’ and if your spinal condition is suitable for keyhole surgery, I will advise it.

Can the spine surgery be done with a robot or endoscopically?

There is a lot of talk about robots in surgery and endoscopes in spine surgery. The robot has revolutionised certain surgeries for example for prostate surgery. There is no true robot in spine surgery. It is a simple machine guide to supplement the computer system that is already used in spine surgery, and it has been given the name robot for marketing purposes. 

The endoscope is new and experimental to spine surgery. Most surgeons have not acquired the experience to be experts.

“From my ‘less is more‘ perspective, the endoscope offers an appealing benefit: it allows for smaller incisions, reducing them from 15mm to 10mm for some procedures. This fits perfectly with my aim to make spinal surgery easier on the body and help patients recover faster, which is really important to me.”

Dr Alex Koefman | Brain and Spinal Surgeon Brisbane
Dr Alex Koefman

Spine Surgeon Brisbane

The downside, however, is that endoscopic spine surgery often requires more time under anaesthesia – sometimes up to three times longer – and it’s not suitable for every spinal condition. 

Do I need someone at home after spine surgery?

This depends on the type of spine surgery. Keyhole surgery often means that you will go home quickly and fully independent without the need for someone to be around to help you. Going home after surgery depends on you being comfortable and confident. Keyhole surgery usually allows you to do both of these things very quickly after surgery. 

Will you be offended if I get a second opinion?

It is very common for patients to get a second opinion. I see a lot of patients who just want a second opinion. Most anxiety relating to potential surgery comes from having unanswered questions; unanswered questions about the procedure, about the risks, about other options. 

Getting a second opinion helps you get all the information you need to answer these questions and put your mind at ease.

I place a large emphasis on giving you the information you need to feel confident about the decision you are making about your health.

Spine surgeon near me

Get in touch

If you’re worried, seeking a second opinion, or curious about treatment options for your condition, please get in touch. I consult at Queensland Neurosurgery & Spine Surgery (QNS), located at the Ramsay Specialist Centre in Greenslopes. Get in touch today. 

Ready to make an appointment?

Alex consults at Queensland Neurosurgery & Spine Surgery (QNS).
Dr Alex Koefman

Ramsay Specialist Centre
Suite 325
Newdegate St
Greenslopes QLD 4120


(07) 3397 4185