Will I Get a Psychological Screening Before my Spine Procedure?

There are certain types of spine procedures for which a doctor may order a psychological screening prior to scheduling a surgery date. Some patients feel uncomfortable with the idea of an evaluation, but the process is important for effective treatment. A psychological evaluation is often saved for surgeries that require implants like spinal cord stimulation.

Psychological Health and Postoperative Recovery

Studies show a link between a patient’s mental health and its effects on patient recovery after an operation. For example, patients who are unemployed or have a history of addiction often do not recover as efficiently as patients without that history. This does not mean that those who see therapists or take medication for psychiatric disorders have no chance of alleviating back pain, but a surgeon must exercise caution when recommending surgery. Medical experts should always consider the patient’s overall well-being rather than focusing in on the pain as an isolated problem.

Why Are Psychological Screenings Common for Implants?

Even if a patient does not have a history of mental health complications, many spine clinics and hospitals assign a mandatory evaluation to protect their own interests. Insurance companies want to avoid covering patients who may change their minds about the implants several days after the surgery occurred. Removing the implant is a costly procedure. More often than not, however, behaviors often associated with mental health disorders like depression can interfere with the recovery process after surgery.

What is the Psychological Evaluation?

Psychological exams are presented either as questionnaires or interviews. The questionnaire is usually an MMPI-2, which is a standard test used to assess personality traits. It is worth noting that many patients who demonstrate depressive symptoms are still able to move forward to surgery with relative success. A spine clinic will also provide a trial period with some implants like a spinal cord stimulator so the patient has an idea of what the experience is like.

Depending on the circumstances, your lower back pain may not need surgery. It is difficult to make a final decision without having a spine expert diagnose your symptoms. Contact the Spine Institute at one of our many locations to set an appointment today.