If you’re in the process of preparing for a spinal cord stimulator implant, bariatric surgery, or gender confirmation procedure, you will most likely be asked by your doctor to get a presurgical psychological evaluation. While it may seem like one more hurdle between you and your goals, a presurgical evaluation is a useful tool designed to protect you and ensure the best possible outcome for your overall health and mental well-being.
Presurgical psychological screening is a risk assessment procedure to determine how psychological factors may influence surgery results, for better or for worse. This screening is conducted to determine whether you are psychologically stable for the planned surgery.
Many people who struggle with chronic pain, infertility, gender dysphoria, or inability to lose weight also suffer from depression and anxiety. These mental conditions have been shown to have no effect on your outcome if they are treated and stable, so a screening helps determine your current mental state.
It also helps your doctor ensure that you are able to understand the procedure, the risks, and expectations for pre and post operative care. While it may be a requirement from your health insurance company to qualify for surgery, it’s a useful tool designed to keep you safe and ensure the best possible outcome for you.
We all know that bariatric surgery, gender confirmation procedures, and in vitro fertilization are radically life-altering surgeries, so not many people are surprised to learn that they require psychological evaluations. But most question why an evaluation of mental health is necessary for spinal cord stimulation. At first glance, spinal cord stimulation seems like it’s simply a procedure to get relief from chronic pain.
While a relatively simple procedure, spinal cord stimulation involves tinkering with the signals your brain receives from your body. Your surgeon will implant small devices around your spinal canal that send electrical current to your brain, interfering with your body’s pain signals to reduce the amount of pain you feel. Check out this video to learn more about how spinal cord stimulation works.
Having a foreign device in their body can increase anxiety and stress for some people. Too much stress can impair the device's effectiveness, so the assessment is there to make sure that spinal cord stimulation is the most beneficial option for you. It’s also important to be certain that candidates for spinal cord stimulation understand exactly how to care for themselves after the surgery, how to use the device, and when they should raise concerns with their doctor.
Ultimately, the evaluation is there to ensure a positive result by offering the right support, and to assess whether the surgery is the best solution for you. You’ll come out of your assessment with confidence in your choice and a plan for moving forward. With any surgery, being mentally prepared is as important as being physically prepared.
The standard presurgical evaluation is a conversation between you and a Psychologist. You will discuss your general medical history, any chronic pain issues, your history with alcohol and substance use, social and family history, and any psychological treatment you’ve had in the past.
It will most likely involve one or more questionnaires as well. These surveys may ask you about your current mood, how you’ve been managing any pain, your current diet and exercise habits, or your goals for the procedure. At the end of your assessment, you will receive feedback and recommendations on the best treatment going ahead.
All the information you give during your evaluation is confidential unless you disclose that you are thinking of hurting yourself or others. You will also be required to sign a release form to confirm that your surgeon can access the results of your evaluation.
If you are feeling anxious or have been struggling with depression due to chronic pain, gender dysphoria, infertility, inability to lose weight, or other chronic symptoms, surgical options can greatly improve your mental health. Before having surgery, it is expected that patients suffering from these symptoms may feel depressed, anxious, and/or irritable. Studies have shown that the presence of these issues does not have a negative effect on surgical outcome if they are treated and stable.
In rare cases, patients are declined when it is determined that:
The important thing to remember is that the evaluation is there to help you achieve the most successful outcome and give you peace of mind.
If you want to explore non-surgical forms of treatment, the psychologist will be able to inform you of your options. Depending on your condition, there can be many alternative techniques and therapies to choose from. These can be a good choice if you come to the decision that surgery is not the best option for you.
If you live near Beverly Hills, CA, or Las Vegas, NV (or are willing to travel), come to Medens Health for presurgical psychological evaluations. We accept many insurance plans and can perform the evaluation virtually if you are comfortable with digital platforms. If you are not located in California or Nevada, you can search Psychology Today’s database for mental health practitioners in your area who conduct pre surgical evaluations.
The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical or mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who is qualified to give you safe, professional, and ethical advice regarding your mental health.
If you or someone you are responsible for is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should call 9-1-1 and/or take them to the nearest emergency room.