Spinal Surgery Service

The Spinal Surgery Service is part of the Department of Neurosurgery at Derriford Hospital.  

Spinal problems are common, and the most common symptom is pain. Many painful conditions do sort themselves out in the end, without the need for any special intervention.  

However, if you have a persistent and/or significantly disabling problem, there may be effective treatments available. Talk to your GP who will refer you to our service if appropriate.   


The first step to get help is making a diagnosis. The most important factor in making a diagnosis is what you tell us about your condition. We will also conduct examinations and an MRI scan. 


If a structural problem is found, which is the likely source of your problem, we can discuss the risks and benefits of surgery to try to improve your condition.  

  • It is important to realise that whilst surgery can be extremely effective, it is never guaranteed, and is always associated with risks.  
  • You should be as close as possible to your ideal body weight to make the surgery as safe as possible. As a rule, we are unlikely to operate if your BMI is greater than 35 and recommend it is less than 30. 
  • If you are overweight, you may be advised that surgery is too dangerous. We strongly advise you lose weight before you see a surgeon.  
  • When we think it is reasonable, we will operate. This will depend on the operation, what other medical problems you might have and other variables. 

As a team, we regularly discuss people who have difficult diagnostic or therapeutic problems. Sometimes we might suggest treatment in another unit or that a second opinion from another unit might be warranted.  

Further help 

Information for Patients 

If you are contemplating surgery, we recommend the British Association of Spine Surgeons site which has a good overview of the nature of spine surgery along with the risks and benefits.  

Please note, the views on the site are not necessarily representative of our own.  

Visit the British Association of Spine Surgeons information for patients   

Videos on back pain  

View this selection of videos about the diagnosis and management of back pain 

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