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Can I request a Fusion

Started by jsheeh9427 on 03/03/2011 1:16am

Im in the Navy but I need more advice then what I am getting from the Navy Doctors. My doctors are awesome and the listen to me but I don't think they are hearing me.

This is going to be long but please read it out.

I am a 37 yr old male. I weigh 250lbs now. On Dec 26th 2008 I slipped on some ice at my sisters house in Michigan The next day I had some, very minor, pain on the back of my left thigh. As I walked the pain would subdo a bit but never really went away. But I could deal with it.

My family and I drove from Michigan to Virginia and as we moved along the pain was getting worse.
I had to recline the seat all the way back just to releive some of the pain. A week later the pain was in the back of my thigh and right on the back of knee where it bends. I went to the ER and they said I had torn my hamstring and needed to see orthopedic doctor. Well the navy did nothing other then prescribe perocet and valium. I was transferred from Norfolk Virginia to Diego Garcia. A 24 hour flight.

I had a lay over in Bahrain and I saw the clinic there and the doctor wanted to do a MRI but didn't have the time. Now this is January 2009. I was given more meds and sent on the 4 hour flight . I check into the command and they started to treat me for a torn hamstring. 8 weeks later I was worse. I couldn't walk more then 10 ft without having to bend down. The clinic downgrades my meds to motrin.

Six months later they decieded I wasn't faking and sent me to Japan where a MRI was done of my left leg. I was placed on Physical Therapy for 6 weeks and it got worse. I was sent back to the island where I was given more motrin. The pain was horrific. I wanted to cut my leg off.

I went back to my doc and explained that my foot was numb and I couldn't tell when I was done going to the bathroom. He did the lay on your back and he stuck my foot with a needle. I felt nothing.
He wrote a two page report on how I need to exercise more and that if I don't he will recommend I be admiistatively seperated from the Navy. I am a Chief Petty officer with 15 years at the time. I was not going to let him end my career.

I took my 30 days leave and managed to see a neruologist at Portsmouth Naval Hospital. This was the first doctor that heard me and wanted to see what the problem was. We did an MRI of my lower back and an EMG. The MRI showed that the disc between L5 and S1 had ruptured and has been pinching the nerves. He said more then likely it has been going on for months. He did surgery on my back that Friday 9-19-09. So I was in this horrific pain for 9 months.

The surgery went well and i was feeling better till March 2010. I slipped at the grocery store and my pains has been slowly getting worse upto 3 weeks ago. I was painting. PAINTING. And I felt something give in my lower back and my leg, butt, calf and ankle were in massive amounts of pain.
I said to my wife I would rest for the day and if it wasn't better in a few days I would goto the ER at Portsmouth. Well it wasn't better and I did go.

They gave me dilantin and that did nothing for the pain. I need to back up a bit. After my surgery I had lost all reflexes in my ankle and numbess in my left two little toes and up the back of my ankle as well as on the back of my left upper thigh. So the dilantin did nothing for the pain.

I scheduled an appointment to see my regular doctor and he referred me to MRI. They did that last night and I was in huge amounts of pain laying there. My whole left leg went numb while in there. They did the MRI with contrast and without. I was in there 80 minutes. They said they couldn't get a good image. My thigh and but were spasming.

So now my question is. Can I demand/ask/request the nerulogist to do a spinal fusion of the L5/S1? I need the pain gone. I am now at 17 years and the Navy has no place for me in the condition I am in. What can I do?

I will volunteer for any new procedure that needs people. I don't smoke or drink. (I know weird for a sailor LOL) I want the pain gone.

My current medication is:
Vicodine, Neurotin, Mobic, nexium, and diazepam. They do nothign for the pain.

What is next?

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2 Responses


I recently had a Spinal fusion on my L5-S1 but that was to correct my Spondylolisthesis and I also had an artificial disc inserted bc mine was gone from all the wear and tear. Sounds like you have more of a herniated disc problem, a ruptured disc that's putting pressure on the nerves that control your legs, bladder, etc. I don't think a Spinal Fusion would help you unless you had an MRI done that indicates you need one, like my fractured spine did (broken spine). A Spinal Fusion means they fuse the bones together with screws and rods so that they no longer slip, as in my case. I would push for a clearer MRI. Ask your Ortho doctor (he is an Orthopaedic surgeon/specialist right?) if there is any kind of numbing medication they could inject your nerves with so that your legs do not spasm during the MRI. Just a thought...there has to be a way for them to get a decent MRI done. Before I had a Spinal Fusion, my Ortho doctor tried Cortisone injections in my spine nerves to help with my sciatica/leg pain...that may be an option if you're experiencing that kind of pain. But you say you have numbness & cannot tell when you're urinating and prolonged pressure on those nerves can cause long-term damage (i.e. loss of bladder control, even paralysis) so you need to push for treatment, and another specialist's opinion. I know it's hard being in the Navy as you are limited to the Navy doctors (who aren't always the best, my brother says). My brother is in the Navy and is dealing with a very serious & unusual eye condition & he complains about the Navy not allowing him to seek outside treatment. I understand how frustrating that can be. I know there are minimally invasive surgeries to repair herniated/ruptured discs with little down time, but I don't know if the Navy performs these kinds of surgeries. I am in month 7 of recovery after my Spinal Fusion and I can do very little. It is a LONG and painful procedure (8-9 hrs under the knife), one week in the hospital (if you don't have complications) and months and months of physical therapy. To this day I can't bend over b/c the screws are still healing in my spine. It is a HUGE surgery, risky, with NO guarantees you will be better, with a lot of blood loss (but not in my case, thankfully) and I still cannot lift, push, pull anything over 10 lbs in month 7. You have to rely on who you live with to do everything for a really long time, even driving is difficult. Sitting or standing for longer than 20 mins still hurts. So think long and hard before asking for a Spinal Fusion. Just felt I had to warn you!! Make sure that it will fix your problem, but you must know for sure what the medical condition is first with an MRI.
Walking and getting the muscles moving, the nerves and blood circulating in your body has helped me so much. Also, gentle stretching is very effective in healing. It may hurt at first to do these things but it is necessary! Keep your weight down as much as possible bc the more weight you carry, the harder it is on your spine and makes your condition WORSE. I know that getting accepted into a clinical trial is very difficult (I tried) and I don't think the Navy allows it anyway. Unfortunately, most clinical trials automatically exclude people in the military based on those restrictions. Here in the U.S. we are very behind Europe in their advancement of minimally invasive surgery only b/c it's hard to get FDA approval for everything here. The Spinal Fusion is an old school way of fixing the spine bc it is so traumatic to the body (the doctor had to make an incision in my abdomen & take out my intestines, bladder, etc to work on my spine from the front) then he had to make 2 incisions in my back. The most horrible pain I have ever felt in my life, not even morphine in my IV numbed my pain. I swelled up like I was 9 months pregnant, it was awful. Trust me, you don't want a fusion, unless you absolutely need it. Hope this info helps you make an educated decision. Good luck to you!!


I am a veteran of five back surgeries, L5-S1; L4; L3; L2 and finally rods and screws from the L5-S1 to the T12 due to scloiosis. Why so many surgeries you ask? Just lucky I guess but now I feel really good and the only time I have pain is if I stand on my feet too long or do too much bending. A bottle of pain pills will last me about four months. Anyway, it sounds to me like you have been given the royal runaround and after one surgery it is possible (like me) your next disc slipped. The doctor you need to be seeing is a neurosurgeon not a neurologist. A neurologist deals more with nerve pain where as a neurosurgeon does surgery on the brain and the spine. You will probably also need a new MRI. They can give you valium to calm down your spasms before the MRI. Good Luck.