Top 10 Things Patients Should Look for in a Neurosurgeon

August is Neurosurgery Awareness Month, making it a good time to share how patients can select the best neurosurgeon for their unique needs.

If you’re dealing with a brain or spine problem, it’s critical to select the best physician to meet your needs. The right doctor will help you determine the best treatment for your condition and enable you to recover as quickly as possible. Surprisingly, for most of our patients, we can offer less invasive treatments that don’t require surgery.

Here are the top 10 attributes that our physicians say patients should look for in a neurosurgeon:

1: Subspecialized Training

“Your neurosurgeon should have considerable training and experience in treating your type of brain or spine problem. In our practice, we each have advanced medical training and experience in different neurosurgical conditions. I specialize in treating spinal conditions, while others specialize in brain tumors, movement disorders, or strokes/brain aneurysms. As a result, our patients get the highest level of expertise for their problem.”
– Roy D. Vingan, MD

2. A Collaborative Team

“Working with other doctors is one of the most important things a neurosurgeon can do for patients. I often describe NJBS as a group of like-minded, collaborative partners. Working together is not only good for our relationships, but it’s also good for our patients. We all believe that no one person can do everything perfectly. By working together, and relying on our various subspecialty expertise within neurosurgery, we can offer each patient the best treatment.”
– George J. Kaptain, MD

3. Excellent Outcomes

“Don’t be afraid to ask for information about the practice’s and neurosurgeon’s quality outcomes. Great neurosurgeons won’t hesitate to provide details. We’re a very busy practice and we see some of the most challenging cases, but our outcomes are excellent. For example, we treat over 100 patients per year for brain aneurysms. Almost 90% of our patients who survive ruptured brain aneurysms are left with no permanent disability. That far exceeds the national average of about 60%.”
– Reza J. Karimi, MD

4. A Conservative Approach

“Surgery is sometimes the answer but often not the only answer. Your neurosurgeon should recognize this and act on this premise. My primary goal in treating patients is to keep them out of the operating room, when possible. If that’s not possible, I offer the safest, most effective treatment possible. Well over 90% of my patients never require surgery. We’re able to treat them with minimal invasive maneuvers and avoid the operating room altogether.”
– Reza J. Karimi, MD

5. A Commitment to Shared Decision Making

“Your neurosurgeon should inform you, educate you, and work with you to choose the right path. At NJBS, our partnership isn’t just with our colleagues, it’s also with our patients. We take time to explain to patients and their families what’s happening and what the nature of the problem is. If patients come to an appointment alone, I ask if they want to phone a family member who can listen in and participate in our conversation. It’s important that everyone has the opportunity to understand their options and that the patient has as much support as possible.”
– George J. Kaptain, MD

6. A Lifelong Learner

“The amount of technology and development in each particular field of neurosurgery is continuously evolving. Your neurosurgeon should be aware of the latest treatments available, including new technological approaches. At NJBS, we’re proud to be at the forefront of new, evidence-based approaches. For example, we were the fourth hospital in the country to offer image-guided MRI surgeries for Parkinson’s patients.
– Hooman Azmi, MD

7. A Willingness to Discuss Alternative Approaches

“Your neurosurgeon should thoroughly explain what your treatment options are in ways that help you make an informed decision. While neurosurgeons are trained to perform surgery, they should not necessarily consider surgery as the first option and certainly not as the only option. Your surgeon should consider the least invasive approach that is appropriate for your condition, circumstances, and goals. Your neurosurgeon should be able to clearly articulate the benefits of the recommended treatments and compare those with any alternative approaches.”
– Roy D. Vingan, MD

8. Honesty

“It’s very important to find a neurosurgeon who is willing to be honest with you. The neurosurgeon should have a frank discussion with you about what you can realistically expect from a treatment given your age, activity level, and other factors. I always speak honestly about a patient’s prognosis, treatment options, and recovery. While I can’t guarantee many things, I can guarantee that I will do everything in my power to ensure that the patient has the best outcome possible.”
– George J. Kaptain, MD

9. A Personalized Approach

“Every patient is different and every patient’s situation is different. Your neurosurgeon should spend time getting to know you and your particular needs and hopes for recovery. This will help determine the appropriate treatment approach, be that a complex surgery, a very simple surgery, or no surgery at all.”
– Kangmin Daniel Lee, MD

10. An Unrushed Manner

“The physician should spend enough time with you to make sure you get all of the information you need. I make a conscious effort to make sure that every patient that comes to see me leaves with a thorough understanding of their neurosurgical condition, and that they are aware of the different treatment options available. We will take the time to systematically go over your clinical complaints, your imaging, and your reports, and then we’ll come up with a plan that makes sense for you.”
– Mohammed Faraz Khan, MD