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Posted in: Neck pain, and Surgery.

Two herniated disc's, surgery required, should I or shouldn't I?

From: caece - on 09/12/2010 10:45am

I am a 51 year old woman who woke one morning with such pain down her right arm neck and shoulder blade, after severel doc's trips it turns out to be two herniated disc's in my neck, c5 and c6 I beleive, bone spurs have caused the herniation. I dont have the pain anymore steroids took the pain away but not the tingling, Physio didn't help infact made the left side painful. 4 MrI's later the Neurosrugeon says surgery to perform spinal fusion with a metal plate to hold it still is my only option. As I say the pains have gone but a general ache, low headache causing slight disability to function without being distracted, and the tingles are my only symptoms right now, oh and dificulty swollowing at times.

Having read various peoples sufferings I wonder if the cure is worse than the actual problem, but do fear eventual unreparable damage to my nerves from the disc's sticking into my neck's nervous system.

Anyone with any thoughts on this I would love to hear from, as I am really split on having the surgery on the 8th October, or waiting to see if it continues to get better or worse.

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12 Responses

on 09/12/2010 4:30pm

Have u gotten second and third opinions, tried every conservative method known to man first? What does ur mri state about any possible nerve or spinal cord impingement? What have u already tried?

on 09/12/2010 5:12pm

Have had two xrays, 4 MRI's which show impingement on the Nerve in two places, two herniatited disc's, tingling senstaions down right arm, had pain in neck arm shoulder but that's gone now pain in left side with pins and needle tingles, that came on from the course of Physio, had steroids, headaches, slight loss of fucntion in the right arm, trouble swollowing at times. Not had a second opnion from a Neurosurgen but have seen all relavent Doc's up to that point. Having a follow up appointment with Neurosurgeon on the 23rd will make fianl decision then.

on 09/12/2010 6:22pm

Its always wise to get 2nd and 3rd opinions when dealing with any type of surgery but especially this kind. Keep me posted on what happens, take care.

on 09/13/2010 10:45am

Did u have a closed MRI which was read by a neuro radiologist? This is THE first requirement. If a nerve is compressed by a herniated discor an extruded disc, then in my opinion that nerve needs to be surgically decompressed. All other approaches to resolving the pain are very often temporary and sometimes cause a progression by delaying surgical decompression. My opinion is based on the experiences of a number of friends and relatives who have had both cervical and lumbar problems.

Finding the best neurosurgeon possible was of utmost importance to me two years ago when I had pain radiating down my right leg which was caused by a "bulging" disc at the L1/L2 level. I conducted an exhaustive net search and found this site most helpful: neurosurgerydallas.com By exploring all links, I felt as though I had taken a mini-course in neurology!

I took advantage of the Virtual Consultation and mailed my MRI for a second opinion. It turned out that the disc was not only herniated, but extruded. Multiple fragments had broken off and were floating in the spinal canal, as confirmed by the diskectomy . Upon awakening in the recovery room after minimally invasive surgery done as an outpatient in the same day surgical unit, I was pain free. That excruciating pain was gone and has never returned.

Recently another of my five bulging discs herniated and extruded. This one was at the L2/L3 level. This time the large mass of the disc lodged underneath the nerve root just as it exited the L2 vertebrae. Ouch!! I tried getting a diagnosis locally, but this was not possible . Were it not for a humane doctor who prescribed Vicodin for my pain, my suicidal thoughts may have won out this time! It was either moving to a state or another country where certain drugs are legal, or suicide, or surgery. I am SO glad that I chose surgery. Had it done again in Dallas, TX on Aug. 20 and am doing GREAT.

More and more neurosurgeons are doing minimally invasive surgery. Some cervical fusions are now done using a Medtronic product called Infuse. It is a bone protein synthesized in the lab which causes new bone to grow and fuse the vertebrae, BUT it is very important that the neurosurgeon be very experienced in using this method of fusion. If they use too much of the rhBMP, even greater problems result!!

Another alternative is to get an artificial disc in place of the degenerated one. Some neurosurgeons say that the metal fusions cause more stress on the ones both just above and just below the vertebrae that were fused. Supposedly the artificial discs avoid such stressing .

To put it in a nutshell, my advice is to do your research and ALWAYS get a second or third opinion. In my case, I got five opinions regarding the first disc extrusion. Only two of the five were in agreement!!

Fortunately, my problem did not cause any permanent paralysis by the delay in getting surgery. Unfortunately, a friend was not so lucky when his cervical spine problem occurred eight years ago and he is partially paralyzed in both legs. He walks like a stroke victim with the use of a cane for short distances and uses a battery operated scooter to get around for longer distances. So I knew that if the compressed nerve is KILLED, then all the muscles innervated by that nerve will be paralyzed. In his case, it took only 12 weeks from onset of symptoms until his spinal cord was so bruised that it has never fully recovered. Rare? Yes, it is, thank God.

Best wishes for you and your doctor to make the best decision.

on 09/13/2010 11:35am

Thank you for responding, I am erring more and more towards surgery having read a few horror stories of what happens if the surgery isn't done to the nerves its looking like I will go ahead with it on the 8th October.

All my MRI's where closed yes, two different surgeons have looked at it and both agree its a pinched nerve, the Neurosurgeon says as nothing else has worked, the only course left open to me is surgery. The disc is protruding into the spinal nerve, and the cause of the disc to rupture is bone spurs. Of course I am scared, but having had surgery 3 other times, once for cancer, I have a vague idea of what to expect, just nothing involving bones or spine before.

I am still sat on the fence, as I say though leaning towards surgery, after a final consult with the Neurosurgeon, (27 years experience) on the 23rd I will make my final choice then.

Thanks again for all your advice.

on 09/14/2010 2:11am

hi i was diagnosed with a prolapsed disc on my Cervical spine 2 years ago in London between c5 and c6, after experiencing stabbing pain on my back shoulder blade, muscle twitching, and tingling down my arms.

MRI shown the disc pressing on my spinal cord n nerves. Doctor advised surgery to replace discs with artificial ones as metal fusion will stress the surrounding disc which are already slightly protuding. Came back to Singapore to seek another opinion and same advice, surgery.

Though i am not scared of surgery per se, my biggest hurdle is the idea of being paralyse from neck down if the surgery goes wrong. Afterall surgery is intrusive and there is always an element of risk no matter how brilliant a surgeon you get.

So i decided to seek traditional chinese medicine or alternative treatment. I went to see a Chinese specialist in acupuncture and treatment relating to spinal problem.

He prescribed an intensive 4 weeks 3 times a week treatment, which includes acupuncture, traction (a weight system to stretch your neck) and pressure massage. Each treatment lasted about 30 to 45 mins.

At the end of the 4 weeks, my tingling has severly died down, back shoulder blade stab pain is gone, muscle twitching pretty much gone as well. As such i decided to hold off any thought of surgery.

Since then i have been attending the treatment initially more regularly now down to whenever i feel discomfort or neck ache.

I can't tell for sure whether the treatment has cure me or not; at least i know i am not subjected to the odds of being paralyse from a surgery gone wrong.

on 09/14/2010 12:11pm

Also 51; active male; 5 weeks post op, 2 level ACDF C6/7 & C7/T1, w/plate. Had dealt with disc issues at these location for 3 years, chronic pain, but full herniation in April made it much worse. Now, i feel great. No pain in the arm; no tingling or numbness anymore. Hand strength is back about 90%. Slight upper shoulder pain, which NS says is normal, but has been going away.

Pre op suggestion: Get in shape, go for walks or jogs (if you can), be active, and eat right so your body is strong for the surgery and post op. I didn't see that the surgeon recommended an EMG...probably should ask about that as a belts and suspenders confirmation of the nerve issue. All 3 of my opinions asked that i have that done

Post op: They did give me the scrip for Percocet and i took it 2x per day for 2 weeks, but also continued daliy walks 2 days post op and haven't stopped. Sure, i'm taking it easy, but I'm certainly not a couch potatoe. I think that really helps, if you can do it.

Good luck

on 09/21/2010 1:49am

I had (have) a problem with many of the disks in my spine due to a bad car accident. Three years ago I had to see a neurologist before carpal tunnel surgery. They wanted to make sure that it really was carpal tunnel. Too my surprise, the MRI revealed that I had several herniated and bulging disks throughout my entire spine. The one the neurologist was concerned with was the cervical spine. He told me to go home and tell my family to be prepared for the possibility that I could become quadroplegic in a heartbeat. He said no surgery was available to fix it. I showed no symptoms at the time. Against my better judgement, I followed his advice and did a 7 day course of steroids and physical therapy. During mechanical traction one day, the pain was so severe, I thought I was going to pass out and it felt like my brain was going to pop out of the top of my head. I quit therapy. about 18 months later, I would get up in the morning and have to stretch out my neck and back for 10 minutes, then 20 minutes, and finally it took 90 minutes. When walking, my right leg would freeze mid-stride for a minute. The final straw was waking up and not being able to walk for 30 minutes to an hour, and I mean not take a step, because I couldn't make my legs go. I am fortunate enough to I live near The Miami Project to Prevent and Cure Paralysis, and had watched a local news story about their surgical team reattaching a young man's spinal cord and he was rapidly regaining everything. I'm lucky I called them when I did, I had only 6mm of space at C5 and C6. I have spinal stenosis, osteophytes, severe spinal arthritis and degenerative disk disease. Within two weeks, i had scheduled an anterior cervical fusion. They used a titanium plate, screws and a cadaver bone. I woke up in my room with zero symptoms. I had to wear a Miami J-Collar 24/7 for 30 days and had a 4 lb weight limit for a couple of months, but I was able to walk without that ungodly pain. Most importantly, I was able to walk!! If you live near a medical college, that will be your best bet to find a state of the art surgeon that will deal specifically with the brain and cervial spine. I needed my life back, as I am an athletic 51 year old female with a lot of living to do!!!!! Time is precious, don't waste it because there is a point of no return with this type of injury.

on 09/23/2010 7:13pm

Agree with Ms Sharon. Get a good second opinion based on the latest MRIs. Find the best doctor, ortho or neuro in your area and travel to a better one if need be. Ask around and see if any friend or neighbors have had similar surgery or know of someone who has and who did they use? Injections and steriods mask the problem but eventually the pain will return. Inflamation is the enemy and the longer you live with it the worse the arthritis will become. Yes arthritis. You might only have a herniated disk but the inflamation is what starts the development of spurs. You can live with herniation pain but once a spur sinks its teeth into a nerve, game over. The only way to decompress a nerve is to remove the impingment. That pain is unrelenting. I don't recommend getting opened up for anything but having had c5-c6(1998), c6-c7(2000) fusion with a plate and c7-t1(2009) posterior fusion with rods; I would do them over again as compared to the pain I felt before. The first two procedures were for herniated disks. the last was to remove a large bone spur that left me with limited use of my right arm. See another doctor and if he/she says surgery, then find the best saw bones and get it done. Pre Op, get in shape. Walk, cycle, PT and lift light weights. Post Op, more of the same as your body will allow and under the guidance of a PT.

on 09/23/2010 9:48pm

Went back to see the doc today, he is certainly not mr personality, but I am not paying him for his bedside maner, although it would help, he has performed over 3,000 of these surgeries with zero problems, upshot is though I am going ahead with the surgery on the 8th of October, I have a trip to Australia and a wedding next year to get better for so they are powerful incentiver.

The tingles and the pains are getting worse, still not as painful as they where at the start, but working their way back to that level, so its time before the pain gets any worse and nerve damage becomes unfixable. Better now than later, not happy very nervous, but it has to be done, so fingers crossed all goes well on the 8th Oct...

Thank you every one who wrote and replied to me, it has all been very helpfull.

on 09/26/2010 12:27pm

I don't know if you will see this, but I myself am facing the surgery dilemma myself right now. But one thing that stood out at me in your posts is this ... your surgeon said he has done over 3000 and had 0 problems. He's lying! Anyone who says he's had 0 problems is a liar! My surgeon told me this! There is no such being. Be very careful. Please go into this with your eyes wide open. This is scary as it is.

on 01/21/2011 1:17am

I am now having to make the decision for steroid shots or have surgery, I have been putting up with pain for many years. I was hoping to see the outcome of Caece's surgery on how well she did on her surgery that was scheduled for Oct 8th.

I hope all is well, I was told in 2006 to have surgery and have put it off for to long I'm tired of the pain I went for my second opion and that is when shots were suggested to help control the pain.