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How is a diagnosis made for back surgery?

Dr. Don Y. Park, MD
Orthopedic Surgeon

Spine surgery should be considered when a person has the correct symptoms with the pathology that seems to be causing the symptoms. Oftentimes, surgeons require imaging such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to understand what the anatomy is in the body, and then to understand the pathology at hand. Once surgeons understand the pathology, then they can try to connect the dots and find out if the symptoms that the person is experiencing are actually coming from the pathology that they see.

Oftentimes, imaging shows a lot of different things that may or may not be causing symptoms. So, it's up to the surgeon to figure out from the person if all of that's associated. It requires a detailed history with a good physical examination, as well as understanding the imaging to come up with a good diagnosis. Once they come up with a good diagnosis, surgeons can have an idea of what the options are with surgery.

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