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Laminectomy with fusion, recovery time

From: lmbarnes - on 03/11/2010 10:38pm

Hi, I have been diagnosed with severe cervical and lumbar stenosis, which has worsened over the years since 2004 due to degenerative disc disease. EMG reveals bilateral radiculapthy and my neck, should and arm hurt all day and my arm is always cold and numb.

I 've tried PT, Chiro, Trigger Point Injections, Epidural Injections, Stryker Percutaneous Dekompression (failed after 3 attempts - probe kept hitting a nerve due to atypical nerve placement) and close to two dozen pain killers ( most which didn't work or made me nauseated or extremely sedated). Doctors have now scheduled me for ACDF (Anterior Cervical Discectomy with Fusion) and a Laminectormy with Fusion for Lumbar Spine.

I am an Assistant Principal for a NYC Dept of Ed. elementary school with 750 students. The surgery has originally been scheduled for Mar. 31, 2010. My office is on the 4th floor and the lunch room is below the 1st floor.

Has anyone had either of these surgical procedures and returned to work? How long were you out of work? How did you help yourself recover successfully so you could return to work? What was your recovery period like? Did you require a lot of assistance when home? Were you still in some pain when you returned to work? Please let me know. Any assistance/advice you can offer me would be deeply appreciated.

Thank you.

Leila

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on 03/13/2010 9:16pm

Leila, My suggestion for you would be to address all your concerns and questions with your physician. Everyone seems to respond differently. Most important to me, is to make sure you have an excellent surgeon. Always good to get a second opinion too. In severe cases of spinal stenosis, there may be no other option than surgery. I have a lot of family members who have had various kinds of back surgery. Each have had different experiences. My husband suffers from spinal stenosis and has had two surgeries. The first being about 23 years ago (cervical fusion). He did quite well with that. He had a second surgery (corpectcomy) about 13 years. Again, he responded well after surgery. He suffered nerve damage as a result of severe compression on his spinal cord. He still suffers with numbness, tingling and pain. Plus, he has lost some of his balance and control. Although, after saying all of that, I will say he does pretty well considering what he has been thru. He is able to work a very demanding job. He keeps a good attitude and has learned to live with the symptoms. I guess in the big picture you have to see the good...we are very thankful that we live in a day when we have surgery as an option. He was on his way to becoming a quadraplegic without surgery. Numbness, tingling and some balance issues...seem rather small in comparison. That's kind of the way we have looked at it. In answer to your questions: after his second surgery he wore a hard collar brace for about 3 months. He was able to return to work prior to that, but he did not do any physical work. He did not have any in home care, other than myself. He was able to manage most things on his own. He did not seem to have pain (thankfully). All-in-all, he had a great surgeon and he did very well post-op. I would recommend talking in great detail with your physician. They should be able to answer your questions and make recommendations regarding what type of home care you will need. Best of luck to you with you surgery. Keep a positive attitude and put trust and faith in your doctor...you will do fine. Just remember to follow your doctor's orders and be patient with your recovery. Everyone heals in their own time and you can't rush it. Allow your body to do what it needs to do. I wish you well!

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on 03/14/2010 8:13pm

Dear KK,
Thanks for your response. Although I have weakness in my hands and legs and balance issues; I also have severe pain in my neck, shoulder, arm, hand and leg on the left side. I read your husband still has pain. Is it the same amount/kind of pain as prior to the surgery? I can't imagine going through this surgery to come out the same way.

I have spoken to my doctor quite a bit, and have had two other mrdical opinions (which are in agreement); however, I can't help but wonder if my pain will really be relieved. My doctor says it will but when I research the internet, I'm finding that everyone does not have that experience. I know everyone's case is different, I guess I'm just afraid of the thought of surgery. My pain is so bad presently that I can barely concentrate on my work and I'm less patient with the children at the school (and the adults). I just want to be my sweet self again.

Again thank you for your response.
Lmbarnes

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on 03/16/2010 12:13am

Leila, I understand your concern about whether the recommended surgery is going to help relieve your pain. That's a tough one to respond to. In my husband's case, he really didn't have a choice. Without surgery he would have become a parapalegic. He had severe compression on his spinal cord. He didn't have severe pain like you are describing. Yes, he did have pain...but it was manageable. The worst of his symptoms seem to be numbness, tingling and coordination/balance issues. He lives with a certain amount of pain, but it is not constant and severe. My sister also had surgery this past year for her lower back. She had lots of pain and burning prior to surgery. Her doctor told her it may not help her back feel better, but in her case, without surgery she would have lost bladder/bowel control and possible paralysis. She still has pain today. In her case she really didn't have any other option either because she didn't want her condition to worsen.

I know for you it must be a big worry and you must be wondering if you are making the right decision. I really feel that you have to trust the advice of your doctor. If you've had 3 opinions and they're all saying the same thing, you need to have confidence in their expertise. Surgery is a scary prospect, I know. And reading some of the posts here can be equally as scary. I wish I could set your mind at ease. I guess what it comes down to, if you feel you've gotten good advice and they are giving you a positive prognosis, and you are really suffering in pain without surgery...maybe there lies the answer. I find I tend to wrestle with big decisions myself, but when I finally settle it in my mind, I can move on and be at peace. I hope you can too. I understand your fears. I've been there. But from what you have explained it sounds optimistic to me. I know your surgery is coming up soon, the 31st of March. Please post how you are doing. I will be interested to know. Good luck...I'll say a prayer for you :)

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