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Spinal fusion? yes or no

Started by survivrs on 09/13/2010 12:59pm

I am 51, have undergone cortisone shots in the L-4/L-5 region several times and as the doctor would attest to, it is a short term fix to a long term problem. I have a spine that have vertebrae sort of twisted, others sliding over each other, bulging discs, i.e. Spinal Stenosis, Spondylosis, Spondylolisthesis, and bulging discs, one apparently with a small central herniation according to an older MRI. I am a patient at a State University Pain Clinic and am awaiting a referral to Orthopedics for Spinal Fusion. Three years ago, I was referred to Neurology but after looking at my MRI, they told me there was nothing they could do for me without even seeing me. I was evaluated to see if I would be a good candidate for some kind of therapy but was rejected. That was over 2 years ago. My concern is the spinal fusion. From what the pain doctor said, it is probably going to be a situation where they start near the Sacrum and work their way up because my entire spine is like a train derailment. I am in constant pain, I take Vicodin but as sparingly as possible. I also take Lyrica for Fibro. And yes it helps 110%. Without it, I lay in bed motionless and crying because the pain is so incredibly unbearable. I also have a TENS Unit that I use and it is helpful on my really bad days. I rely on it quite a bit. Please do not even suggest that I take Tramadol because I have and it does absolutely nothing for me! I would love to hear from people who have had spinal fusion and how they feel about it. Thank you all very much for whatever input you give me.

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There to discussions on this form that might be very helpful to you. Make sure you go to the last pages on both go to the bottom of the page and push last. 1 which is more positive. I would like some honest feedback. The second that I started failed back surgeries are the percentages right. I think were more negative. My had a decompression and fusion on July 22. I made my decision and it was to have the surgery I could not stand the pain anymore. But postop 2 months I `m still in worse PAIN than I was presurgery. Doing physical therapy and everything the doctor tells me. I am questioning if I did the right thing with surgery . I am still in a lot of pain on the same pain meds as presurgery. There are some people three days later they're Doing great not me. Check those 2 discussions and good luck. Sam

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Hi survivrs
You have a lot going on in your spine, not sure if it is contained in the lumbar or not, but if it is the lumbar area that gives the most grief then perhaps you should have your doctor investigar the new treatment modality for low back pain, "Ambulatory Spinal Unloading". It is noninvasive and user determined and can relieve low back pain caused by many different things. I get relief from my degenerative spinal arthiritis and mild scoliosis with my Trekke Lumbar Lift device and I have personally seen two sciatica sufferers put the device on and say "The sciatica pain is gone". Hope this helps, let me know.

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Honestly, I would only do it as a last resort. Keep searching what works for you. I found a combination of traditional with alternative therapies worked for me.

Acupuncture
Svaroopa Yoga - Its very gentle and is centered around supporting the spine.
Salon Pads (you can get them at your local pharmacy)
Lots of walking - It was the only thing I could so
Physical Therapy with one who specialized in Sports Medicine - they really work you hard (sometimes you have to convince the doctor you know what is best for your body)
Lots of ice but for only 10 minute increments
Hot Hot Baths where you can float

Do hesitate to take more vicodin. Yes, it is addictive but your doc will help you get off it as the pain reduces. It only really helps dull your mind to the pain. I found no medicine can really get rid of the nerve pain.

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My double fusion surgery (L3-L4, L4-L5) was scheduled yesterday for October 14th 2010. I have been thru every other treatment alternative and nothing has worked. My depression is getting worse from the constant pain. However, I find myself scared to death to have this surgery.

Originally I fell at work (06/22/08)and herniated my L3-L4 disc badly. The worker's comp insurance sent me to an Ortho surgeon. This Ortho surgeon did a discectomy at L3-L4 on 01/31/09. After the surgery my pain, numbness, and tingling increased. I found out months after the surgery through an MRI taken after my surgery and compared to the MRI prior to surgery, that this workers comp Ortho doctor had removed all disc material from not only L3-L4, but L4-L5 as well. To make matters worse, I found out that he had been reported six times prior to my surgery for messing up back surgies. Unfortunately, being this was workers comp, I have no action I can take against the surgeon nor the WC Insurance Co. They are protected by law.

Now I'm facing this double fusion surgery on October 14th 2010, and I'm scared to death! Even though this ia a nuero surgeon and through my private insurance, NOT worker's comp. However, after that last experience on 01/31/09, all I can think about is: What if this new surgeon messes me up even worse.

Can anyone help me get thru this up coming surgery? Perhaps give me ideas of questions I should ask this Nuerosurgeon? Please help me... thanks :)

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I feel like you were telling my story,the only difference is I have had the worst experiences with getting a Dr. To take me seriously & tell me my pain is real with just cause! My pain started 5 yrs ago, many Dr.s later...no insurance will cover my so called pre-existing issues so I have no more financial help to take care of myself! I relate to laying in bed crying in awful pain. The only shot that worked for me was an epidural(no INS.-no more shots), the only pain meds that work are lyrica & oxycontin,vicodin did not relieve me enough
I too have stenosis & fibromyalgia & chronic fatigue syndrome. Without the pain meeds I would have no life. I went 2 yrs. In bed before I gave in to oral medications but it is a battle I fight with everyday,take my pain meds or lay in bed miserable....in my case, out of pure desperation I take my medicines & get on with my day which is still very limited. I stay close to home because I too have the good/bad days. I wish you luck as well as myself, post updates so I too am informed of treatments.

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I think that a decision to have surgery is very personal and should only be decided by you...
Some questions to think about
1. What is the surgery going to do? Will it only potentially relieve pain or will it potentially fix the problem?

2. If I do have this surgery, what is the probability that other areas of my spine will become unstable? How much surgery at ONE time is beneficial / risky?

3. What if it does not work or cause more problems?

4. Who will help me for the several months of recovery after surgery? Can I afford the surgery, post op care, physical therapy and check in's with the other MD's that will be required?

5. What if there are complications?

I decided against the surgery...the only way I will submit to the surgery is if I develop significant Cuada Equina Syndrome and it becomes an emergency.

For me, I have my disabled child to think about. I have absolutely no money or savings...I bring home 2200.00/month and there is nothing or no one who I have to help me. Finally, I would rather live in the "known quantity" of my current pain...then potentially risk different or further pain for a surgery that will NOT cure my issue, but would take place specifically to relieve the pressure on my spinal cord--a Lumbar Decompression Surgery.

I hope your decision, what ever that may be is the right one and allows you more freedom and less pain. Be confident in your decision making, not desperate. Good luck and HUGS!

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Thank you so much for replying to my post :) I do have excellent private insurance. My husband was in the Navy for 20 years and I'm so grateful for the medical insurance we have. My choice of employment before this injury was waitressing. And I have a job waiting for me as soon as I'm able to work again. However, with my current condition, there is no way I can return to my favorite profession. Some in my family want me to use my certifications in either Paralegal or Medical billing. But thats not where my heart is.. it's serving people. The surgeon claims he can make me better and able to return to waitressing with this surgery. It would be like a dream come true.

Now my worries about this surgery. My mother and father live 12 hours from me. My mother is dying and my dad has CHF and diabetes. He's trying very hard to take care of my mother but he's to the point where he needs a heart pump. In my current state I'm unable to help him much. Plus my father in law has stage 4 cancer. This has all happened in the last 6 months, regarding my moms and father in law's health. I have no one except my husband to help me through after the surgery. Although he is wonderful, he has school three evenings a week for 6 hours each evening.

Also, I, like you, am afraid of getting worse after the surgery. Right now, although the pain is horrible, I'm used to it. I mean, what good will I be to my family if I come out of this paralized?! I'm so torn on what to do. My family keeps telling me to have this surgery so I can get better. But every time I hear that, it brings me back memories of hearing those same words before my last surgery that was a complete nightmare.

Anyway... again I appreciate your response and help in this. I pray for ALL of us that are going through this situation (spinal trauma).

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I know how all of you feel. I have degenerative disc disease and was diagnosed at age 16. I work for and I am cared for by one of the most prestigious clinics in the world and yet I still live with periodic pain.
First of all I am not the type to jump into surgery. I was raised by more "natural" techniques having parents as physical therapists they knew this wasn't going to be an easy diagnosis for a 16yr old so we took every precaution in the book. Exercises, PT, acupuncture, chiropractic work ect. It helped but for me didn't work so I had to have my first surgery at age 22. L5S1 diseconomy, which was one of the most horrible experiences ever, so much disc material was taken out that it, was rubbing bone to bone. I lasted two more years and researched over 12 of the best surgeons to figure out how many levels to do surgery. At age 24 I had just a one level L5S1 fusion. It took a long time to heal but it was the best thing I have ever done!! The consequences are that you loose shock absorbers (discs) and that puts more stress on the other discs. So this May I had to have my 3rd back surgery on L3L4 micro-discetomy which took some time for the nerves to heal but I am back to work full time and exercising 5 days a week. I walk every day never miss a day EVER and that helps keep my crappy muscles strong to help with every day low back pain. I don’t take meds unless I am crawling on the floor. I do my PT 3 days a week and lift light weights at the gym 3 days a week. Every surgeon I talked to said this is the best I could be doing, but no matter what I do, I have a 70% chance of needing another surgery. These are the cards I have been dealt and I thank God I have wonderful doctors who tell me they will be with me every road block I have. They said that they will give 110% as long as I give it my all to keep moving forward.

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I've had 5 spine surgeries and here's what I have learned....
hold off on that surgery as long as you can.
Rule of thumb....
spinal surgery is to protect the spine from imminent danger, such as paralysis or permanent nerve damage. Never have a spine surgery to get rid of pain, because in the long term it does not.
You exchange one type of pain for another. The reason is; anytime you join to discs together, the discs on either side of the fusion are suffering from greater stress and will mal-align with rapidity.
This sets the stage for two more surgeries, one on either side of the original fusion. I would do the pain injections as long as they will allow you to.
Should the day come when you must have surgery to protect your spine from danger, always use a neuro-surgeon.

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