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ANGELINMICHIGAN 05-18-2015 07:30 AM

How to find references for Neurological Surgeon
Hi, my name is Lyn (AngelinMichigan). I have recently been sent to this new Neurological Surgeon who is talking about possibly doing a very complicated surgery on my cervical spine. I have a pseudoarthrosis after having my original surgery in 2003 on C5/6 and 6/7 and I know 6/7 did not fuse from the beginning and no other surgeons would ever touch my case. I have never got out of pain from the beginning and I have just had an ortho spine surgeon (board certified) and a neurological surgeon who is also board certified both tell me that they want to fix my pseudoarthrosis, neither one of them knowing for sure if this will help my pain as it has been so long!!! The neuro actually is thinking of doing anterior and posterior surgery and he says there is a bit of movement and halos around the screws (he says a back out of the screws by only about 1mm) but that there is a bit of movement!!! My original surgeon now has come back into the picture in 2012 and says that there is minimal motion and also sees that I have Bilateral Foraminal Stenosis (right side greater than left) and my right arm has been very sore and hard to use for several years.My fingers go numb and tingly off and on ring finger/pinky finger right hand. Now he states that the Stenosis is on the vertabrae above on C4/5 and his partner says that he doesn't see that!!!! Also the original Neuro states that I have a bulging disc on C4/5 also but that none of that would be causing me pain. I also have a very large bone spur on C4 and one on C3 and arthritis on C1-C2.
Now my new Neurological Surgeon wants me to see his buddy that he operates and collaborates with who is all a neuro surgeon but apparently is NOT board certified but has his Training certification (I forget how that is put) and has lots of referrals and is said to be one of the best (University of Michigan) Dr. Eltahawy!!! This other Neurological Surgeon is one that my chiropractor is sending me to and he looks like he has lots of good qualifications but...I can only find one recommendation on his web site and I need to find out more about this guy before I would even think about going to him for surgery. My chiropractor can say he is wonderful and great and all of that good stuff about him but my husband and I need lots more. There are not many people on these boards that have had a pseudoarthrosis and have had a revision surgery and also and a posterior revision at that.
This is a major decision but also chronic pain since the year 2000 is just wearing me out and to go through all of this and still be in pain, I just can't handle it much longer. There are other things that may also (probably also) could be causing this pain and I need to know that this doctor is good. Actually my original neurosurgeon is one of the Best in Michigan and his partner also is and to me they both failed me. I won't go into details about the partner!!!
If anyone has some advice how I can find out about some references this doctor I would appreciate it. He seems very nice but kind of shy and not straight forward, kind of confused. He has told me twice that he wants to talk to Dr. Eltahawy about me and when I go back to him he hasn't mentioned me to this doctor. I don't get the impression that he knows what to do with me and I guess he wants his buddy to look at me but we just don't feel like he is really confident in knowing what to do. He has been a neurological surgeon for 27 years but I don't know the difference between neurosurgeon and neurological surgeon? The other two doctors think they know everything and you are not even allowed to ask a question or they cut you off and one threw me out of his office for asking too many questions after surgery, so I don't know which is best. I just know it is so confusing!!!
Does anyone have any suggestions?
Thanks everyone and take care and have a peaceful day. Lyn
AngelinMichigan :angel:

teteri66 05-18-2015 12:08 PM

Re: How to find references for Neurological Surgeon
I do not live in Michigan, but have family and friends who do. Several of them have needed spine surgery. I discovered that it can be a difficult place to get second opinions! Several of the leading programs/hospitals are peopled with spine doctors that all trained in the same institutions, and as a result, tend not to be objective about another doctor's opinion or surgical results.

A friend of mine had a lumbar fusion at the same time I did back in 2008. After a couple years had passed and she was in growing pain, I convinced her to go see some other spine surgeons, as her own kept telling her she was fused and he couldn't imagine why she was in pain. When she went to several other surgeons, (both at UMich and the greater Detroit area), as soon as they found out who did the original surgery, they would tell her that he was a wonderful surgeon and that everything had to be fine...etc. After hearing that the pain must be all in her head from several doctors, she became discouraged and stopped looking for help. But she continued to get worse, and I continued to encourage her to keep looking for answers.

Finally she found a doctor who specialized in revisions. He did a bone scan and found that she had never completely fused, and one screw had penetrated a nerve, and the nerve had wrapped around the screw. Three years from the first surgery, she had a revision surgery, and is somewhat better today although she suffered permanent nerve damage from original surgery.

I have found it helpful to talk to various physical therapists and surgical nurses when inquiring about a surgeon. They often have a pulse on who is a good spine surgeon, and who to avoid.

Then search the surgeon's name online to see what pops up. There are a couple sites that offer information and customer reviews. You can look on the state's medical society website to see if there are lawsuits against a particular doctor or practice. Hospital websites will show a doctor's CV and medical training, experience, professional affiliations, etc. Fellowship training in the spine is the most critical credential to look for...more so than board certification.

It is also important to check the hospital's ranking and infections rate. With a revision, you are more susceptible to infection, so you want a surgeon that operates out of a superior hospital.

Have you researched Dr. Eltahaway? It would appear that he has a number of unhappy patients, and he appears to perform at least as many brain surgeries as spine surgeries.

Titchou 05-18-2015 06:58 PM

Re: How to find references for Neurological Surgeon
I agree with all the above. Also, ask friends for referrals. When you check the surgeon's CV, look up the ranking of the med school and residency that he did. There are various sites that do that. Do you have an internist or gyno that you trust? Ask for a name from them...

ANGELINMICHIGAN 05-19-2015 10:14 AM

Re: How to find references for Neurological Surgeon
Teteri66 Thank you so much (again) for your reply to my message about how to find a reference for a Neurological Surgeon.

Today I am again confused. You had read my MRI of my lumbar spine for me I believe it was last week and I appreciated that so much. I went to the Neurological Surgeon yesterday so he could review the results of the MRI with me and he said that my spine looked fantastic and besides only seeing a few small bulges and herniations and a bit of degeneration that was normal for someone of my age (63) that a lot of people would be very happy to have my spine!!!
He kept on asking me again and again where my pain was and I told him that it was in my pelvis area and my hip and running down my leg, under my knee to my calf area and into my foot and he said that it must be my hip because nothing on the MRI was conclusive at all to where my pain was. I told him when I walk for about 5 to 10 minutes then the pain gets really bad and that sometimes I have to stop walking because it hurts so bad. I also told him that on the top of my "left" foot that it has been numb for years!!! He said, it is not my area of expertise, go to your GP and ask him to order you a "hip x-ray" and said he could give me a cortizone shot in my back if I wanted it!!! So that was it for me lumbar spine and he kind of dismissed himself of that!!!

Now originally I was going to him for my cervical spine and that is when he originally said after the first appt. that he wanted me to see "Dr. Hazen Eltahawy" (University of Michigan) (fellowship trained) that they operate and consult together and he gave me a prescription (referral) to go and see him but told me to wait before I make an appt. with him because he was going to talk to him first. He wasn't sure "again" like several other doctors if I was fused or not (not going over story again) you can read my story under my name!! He sent me for another "cat scan" last one done in 2010 by another Orthopedic Surgeon, my Neurosurgeon who is very very well known in Michigan told me again by checking out x-rays in his office "again" in 2012 and another Ortho in 2014 all said Pseudoarthrosis C6/7. This new neuro. said to confirm again get a new Cat Scan. The latest one done in April 2015. He agrees along with my chiropractors (who are fantastic at reading any x-ray)... a pseudoarthrosis. (It is soooo annoying as the doctor put on the prescription...DX for pseudoarthrosis...The radiologist never mentioned it!!! The Neuro said that radiologists reports mean nothing to him he doesn't even look at them as he wants to look at the films himself!!!
Yesterday again when I saw new "Neurological Surgeon" who was recommended originally by my chiropractors ....who I can only find one reference on yahoo, google!!!....(and I see and asked his secretary, he is "board certified" and he said to me "did you see Dr. Eltahawy yet for your cervical spine" twice he was supposed to talk to him and his secretary told me "he didn't talk to him yet" and yesterday he told my husband and I that "yes he did talk to him" but he didn't say what was said...he just asked me when my appt. was (which is the end of July) and then he asked me for the x-rays again like he didn't remember a thing and said "yes you definitely have a non-union" and blah blah and basically said a lot of different things than he said in any other appt. and said that this is a difficult surgery and I might not ever get out of pain "I know that but all of a sudden he wasn't that interested in helping me anymore" and yes I have researched Dr. Eltahawy and saw that he did a fusion once on the wrong vertabrae!!!! which I wasn't too impressed with and he has a bad attitude which I have had enough of that with other doctors!!!...but that he is not board certified but has the training that you (Teteri66) said to look for but didn't see that he operates on brains also and is not just a spine doctor!!!
I have been to my new GP only once and I will ask him for a reference to a neurosurgeon but I believe the two best Neurosurgeons in Michigan (the first one being the one that did my original surgery and he did know at 5 months that I wasn't fused by a myelogram and told me to find someone else to help me because he didn't think that was the source of my pain (but called me the night before to come in the next day to talk about revision surgery). After a dispute or because I questioned him he told me he wouldn't help me!!! He gave me other doctors to go to but they wouldn't see me because I was his patient and the second one was his partner that I went to in 2014 and he sent me for a MRI to see if any other additional vertabraes were going after confirming with me in looking at my cat scan from 2010 that I did have pseudoarthrosis and he was going to do a posterior fusion but wanted to check out C7/T1 and C4/5 and C4 has a large bone spur on it and there are several other things small things going on. Anyway after the MRI was done, his assistant called me to make an appt. to see me about the MRI and she said..."your fusion is doing well and you are partially fused"....I thought to myself.."my fusion is doing well, I got it done in 2003...this is 2015??? and I am partially fused? my original fusion was C5/6 and 6/7 so I guess she was saying that C5/6 was fused? which I new that!!!
So we go for the follow up appt and he comes in the room so and he is one of those doctors that you wait hours for and he gives you 3 minutes and is almost walking out when he comes in!!! He says "well I looked at your MRI and everything is fine!! So basically we are done here!! I look at my husband and I then said to the ortho, "so what does that mean" he says "everything looks good!!! I said you sent me for the MRI to see if any additional vertabrae are going and "my husband says" and you were going to check further to see about the non-union and he holds his hands up to my husband like a "T" for "time-out" and says, "first of all" you can't tell on an MRI if someone is fused or not!!! Kind of very rude to him..he says the vertabrae above and below are fine!!! I said well last visit you said I had a pseudoarthrosis at C6/7 and that you wanted to operate and go in posterially!! He just looked at me and I said "you looked at the CD of my cat scan done in October of 2010" he said, "do you have that with you" and of course I did so I gave it to him and he went with his assistant to another office and came back out and said...well you are not fused at C6/7!!!! So then he says "well I am going to send you for another cat scan to make absolutely sure"..he said maybe you have fused some more since 2010!! He gave me a prescription for another cat scan and a pile of paperwork explaining posterior fusion surgery. My husband and I walked out in shock!!! First of all I want to explain that the appointment before when he did notice that I wasn't fused in looking at the Cat Scan of 2010 he commented under his breath "oh why didn't Dr.------ fix this??? That was his first comment!!!
Now you know why I am confused!!!
I am soooo sorry that this message is so long. When I hear that this surgery might not help and the Neurological Surgeon says yesterday "well I would try it, it is worth it to try" previous appts. he said first, posterior surgery, one time he said anterior and posterior and use a piece from my own hip!!! donor bone used first surgery!!! The orthopedic surgeon said Posterior and "we'll just go into your hip and "SCOOP" out some bone marrow a few tablespoons "like no big deal", he said the operation will take about 30 minutes.
In hindsight the Neurological Surgeon has given me a referral to go to Dr. Ultahawy who (you are right Teteri66) does have some unhappy patients and the Orthopedic surgeon who is "very high up" in Michigan was not prepared for my appt. and I was not pleased with him when I went back to him. I said right away that I wasn't going to go back to him and he has very good reviews but maybe he didn't want to operate either because of who my original surgeon was and didn't want to say. Either way I am very confused. Do I just give up after all of these years in Chronic pain!!!
Teteri66, thank you so much for reading my long post and Researching Dr. Eltahawy for me. I did see a few unhappy patients and didn't know what to think about it either and still have time to cancel my appt which I was already thinking of doing.
Thank you so much for caring. Lyn :angel:

ANGELINMICHIGAN 05-19-2015 10:17 AM

Re: How to find references for Neurological Surgeon
Titchou, thank you so much for your reply. I really appreciate your information!! Can you tell me what CV stands for please? Thanks Lyn

teteri66 05-19-2015 05:29 PM

Re: How to find references for Neurological Surgeon
A CV is a type of resume that is often used in academia. It is more detailed and includes things beyond name, education and work experience, like awards, grants, published articles, presentations, areas of particular interest, professional associations, etc.

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