Patient preferences regarding spine surgical decision making

Bradley K. Weiner, Frank M. Essis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


STUDY DESIGN. Patient surveys to determine preferences in surgical decision making. OBJECTIVE. To evaluate spine patient preferences regarding physician and patient roles in surgical decision making and to discuss the ethical considerations that arise. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA. Since the 1980s, there has been a push toward increasing patient autonomy and self-determination, and away from the paternalism of the past. Commensurate with this shift, patients have been encouraged to take the primary active role in surgical decision making. To date, there is little empirical evidence regarding how deeply patients want to be involved in this decision-making process. METHODS. A total of 200 consecutive patients seen at our academic spine center were administered 1 of 2 questionnaires (previously validated) aimed at determining patient preferences about how clinical decision making should take place. RESULTS. Patients felt strongly that complete risk information be provided. The majority of patients felt that the physician, rather than the patient, should make the basic treatment decision, and the great majority felt that the physician should make the technical decisions regarding treatment. CONCLUSIONS. Spine surgical patients often prefer to defer surgical decision making to their surgeons. In clinical scenarios where there is little controversy and the evidence is clear, this results in little consequence, assuming that the surgeon aims to provide evidence-based care. In scenarios with greater controversy and less clear evidence, the choice of treatment offered by the surgeon may be based on factors outside of the available science, and, accordingly, efforts should be made to educate fully the patient and to help the patient make his/her own decision based on personal values regarding outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2857-2860
Number of pages4
Issue number24
StatePublished - Nov 2006


  • Autonomy
  • Decision making
  • Ethics
  • Paternalism
  • Spine surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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