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Saw Neurosurgeon, still confused!

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,731
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:24 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
:S Myself and my family met with the neurosurgeon who is going to do a 2 level fusion on my back. I have only slight sciatic pain into my buttocks, no leg pain - yet. According to the doctor I have a L4-5 herniation, L5-S1 collapse with stenosis of the spine. She wants to do a laminectomy and a two level fusion. When asked if I will get worse = she says yes. I was originally scheduled for Nov 12, but have moved it to March - more time for me to recover since I work for a school.

My question, for those of you who have had this done, would you go through with it just based on back pain alone? OR, would you wait until the sciatica or nerve problems start before you get it done? I am 46 and an avid hiker and can still get around pretty good, but the days after exercise I am miserable with back pain and taking pain meds daily. @) I guess I am just freaked out by the horror stories I read here, even though I have read some of the good thread success stories. Any opinions really, really appreciated. :D


  • I would not go through a fusion just for back pain. Maybe you should get a second opinion?
  • This was a second opinion. First doctor who was an orthopedic surgeon told me my MRI "was ugly." The back pain is constant and really driving me nuts! ~X( I guess I am just hoping for some sort of solution to this other than the pain pills.
  • If I were you, I would probably see another NS. In my case, the pain was so intense and the MRI showed the herniation was so bad that I had no other choice but immediate surgery. Until you are convinced, you need to keep asking if there are other options. I am glad you have some flexibility for when you can have it, if you need to, because you can at least prepare.

    I wish you the best,

  • Hi emt,
    Just giving my opinion, if I was you I would go ahead with surgery now. If you wait till you have leg pain, then you could set yourself up for permanent nerve damage. I had a laminectomy with a fusion at L5-S1 with a rod and screws on the left side of my spine. I waited till I had sciatica going down both legs before I did anything, andthe MRI showed my disc was collapsed. I am a success story so far. The sciatica is gone, I still deal with numbness sometimes but I know that it will take a while for the nerves to heal from the before surgery aggravation, and then the surgery. I, like you, was so worried about going through with surgery, but am so glad and thankful that I did.
  • Thanks so much. >:D< Anybody else with opinions - it is so helpful to hear other people's stories and experiences. Gar - my whole motivation for proceeding with the surgery is to PREVENT the sciatica from getting worse and "nip it in the bud" before it gets to that point. From what she said, it would only be a matter of time before it happens.
  • I, too, would suggest a second opinion. Fusion surgery, to me anyway, is the last resort. I had back problems for years, but it wasn't until sciatica was so bad I couldn't walk for days at a time that surgery was considered. I would try physical therapy, epidurals, chiropractors, etc., first before doing anything as radical as fusion surgery. Just my opinion. Blessings to you.
  • Hi,

    The forum does not show the real picture of successful surgeries. Most move on with active lives. However I am one that had emergent surgeries. You need to ask yourself if you can accept that a fusion may or may not control your pain issues.

    I am one that although the fusion stabilized my spine it did not work for decreasing pain. So even now I am in pain even with my SCS implant. I am more functional now because of the fusion and SCS. Probably would have been bed ridden for the rest of my life without these surgeries.

    My suggestion is to look at alternatives to managing the pain IF the fusion is not necessary for stabilization and mobility. IMHO, from my experience.

    Take care of you,

  • I had a fusion at L4L5 due to serious Sciatica, and near foot drop. My right leg was pretty useless. The pain was horrible, I could never sit up straight without horrible shooting pain down my back, my foot was so weak I couldn't drive, would trip on it sometimes, etc... They moved my fusion up to the day after I saw my doctor after my reherniation. Sometimes when it's necessary, it's necessary. You could give it a SHORT amount of time, and see how you do then. You don't want to go through surgery yet if you don't HAVE to, but you also don't want permanent nerve damage. My sciatica started in my buttocks and it took about 6 months to spread down to my foot.
  • I agree with getting another opinion from a neurosurgeon. I consulted with 7 surgeons before deciding on surgery. I have a ruptured disc at L4-L5 with a fragment compressing the nerve root. I have had sciatic pain in my right leg since May '08. The opinions varied, but I was shocked by one of the neurosurgeons account of my situation and recommendations. She recommended a partial laminectomy to relieve Spinal Stenosis and stated need to not only decompress (R) side, but to do the other side as well to prevent herniation . I left the office totally stunned and depressed. A CT Scan and x-rays were ordered to confirm the Spinal stenosis and check for spinal stability as she also mentioned fusion. Well the Ct Scan showed mild to moderate Spinal Stenosis and my Spine was stable. None of the others had this recommendation and felt my spinal stenosis was insignificant to the the issue. I feel it is important to get as much information as possible before going forward with surgery. I am scheduled for a Microdiscectomy Nov 4. Good Luck .
  • I guess a third opinion would not be a bad idea, I just hope it does not confuse me more! 8} My main question though was has anyone here had the surgery for just back pain and minimal sciatic pain? I wanted to know if they were successful in getting pain relief with the fusion surgery.
  • Jeez. That's good to hear that they're not going to do something bigger than necessary. MicroDiscectomy sounds like the perfect surgery. I also had a herniation at L4-L5 with most of the disc pressing on my sciatic nerve, and had HORRIBLE sciatica in my right leg. Since February 07. Had my MicroD in May 08.
  • All of my pre-op symptoms are gone and have been gone since I woke up from surgery. I already had my fusion scheduled for back pain and inability to sit or stand or long periods of time, and really bad sciatica. Had a MicroD first that didn't work, then reherniated, and after that, they rescheduled due to the weakness and numbness. Not everyone gets weakness and numbness, but that doesn't necessarily mean surgery isn't the right option. I am SO glad I went through with it. I would do it again if necessary.
  • My fusion surgery completely eliminated my sciatica. You have to make an educated judgement on how much you can deal with concerning pain. It's such a long haul to recovery, and there are NO guarantees that surgery will take away the pain.
  • EMTlady, you also have to remember that it all varies by person. Even two people with the same diagnoses and same treatments can have to totally different results. Less than 2 weeks post op from my fusion I was taking care of myself entirely and doing everything myself. Didn't need help. Returned to my normal routine. Never needed a grabber, never needed a raised toilet seat, never needed to rearrange anything in my house to make it more convenient. In the hospital, the next day I got right up and walked down the hall totally fine, no cane, no walker. I am one month post op and aside from cold mornings or if I slept the wrong way, I feel great. In comparison, there are people here who it took months to reach this point, and people who are many months post op and still aren't at this point. It ALL varies Each person has so many variables that it's hard to really compare one to the next. You should not decide on surgery based on what others think. It's about you and how much you can handle. If you think you can deal with the pain and continue living this way, then do so. If not, and you're tired of it, and want to try another route, then do that. Only YOU know what is too much for you, and only you can make the right decision.
  • Lo, you are so young to have been through so much! I am glad that the surgery helped you and that you feel it was worth it. I sure appreciate your help and hope to hear from others also who have been through this.
  • Of course only you can make that decision. I am a firm believer in personal intuition.

    I take things like spinal instability, possible nerve damage, permanent nerve damage, loss of function and greater risk of failed repair into consideration over pain. If my pain is controllable then I consider those things. If my pain is not controllable, then the rest is a mute point because I wouldn't be able to function anyway.

    Common sense, good judgment and intuition.

  • Please make sure you use up all of your options before you go ahead with the fusion. I had a level 2 fusion, same levels as you are thinking on Sept 25th. I also had lots of PT and other therapies before my dr even considered the fusion.
    I had sciatica about 9 years ago lifting a patient when I did home health care and just twisted the wrong way. I thought I was going to die! My doc then had me go to PT and learn stretching exercices to help with the nerve and keep it "loose" so it wouldn't happen as often. That worked pretty much every day up until I fell on July 25th '07.
    My doc now had me do PT, EPI's, meds etc before even considering a MicroD. I then had that on Nov 15th '07. Everything was fine until I had an asthma attack 2 weeks post-op and reherniated! OUCH!
    Went back to dr and he had me repeat it all over again, and then had me do 2 discograms before the fusion. I only did the fusion now because my back pain was unbearable! I work as a paraprofessional with the special ed dept for 1st and 2nd graders and worked with a one on one last year. I couldn't even stand when I got home from all the pain! My kids were suffering as much as I was and then I knew that I had to get the fusion done.
    As a post-op fusion patient, I would have to say that I am glad that I had this surgery! My kids are happy too, as they were the most important key for me making my decision. It's a long road to recovery, but every day is another step forward. (for most) As for me, I have had a step backwards but that is to be expected, hopefully won't happen, but it just might with any surgery.
    Like Lo said, everyone heals at different rates as everyones bodies are different.
    I have faith that you will make the right decision! You're children, if you have any, and the ones you teach, will appreciate any decision you make! I know my students miss me but can't wait for "Miss Kim" to return!
    Take Care!
    Kim >:D< >:D<
  • Keecho -

    I am so glad you shared your story also. Do you think you would have endured the fusion if you would not have had the sciatic pain and just had severe back pain? My sciatica is just starting, but the pain with prolonged standing, walking, etc... is into my hips and rear-end so bad sometimes, I can't even imagine how some of you cope with additional pain down into your feet and legs!! I agree, that the risks of this are huge and I have tried other therapies. Right now the only thing that helps is taking pain meds EVERY day. I am trying to decide if that is the best way to live rather than putting myself through this surgery and just wait and see if I get the sciatic pain worse down the road.
  • can decide on what's best for you! I will tell you that my tolerance for pain got sooo high none of the meds were working before the fusion. I ended up having seizure due to all the pain and was rushed to the hospital several times, even from school! The kids were horrified! The school nurse thought I was having a stroke once too!
    It was also at that point that I knew I needed this done, and am I happy about it, YES! I have my days, weeks that I regret doing it. but when I look at my kids faces, it was sooo worth it! I'm having a back stream right now, but I know it will get better. I just have to be patient!
    You will know what to do, I have faith in you!
    Just remember, you can't live off of pain meds for the rest of your life! It will cause other issues!

  • Can you live with the back pain? If not...then go for it. I did not have much leg pain-only on and off. My fusions has already changed my life...12 weeks post op tomorrow and the pain is almost gone completely! After years of NONstop 24/7 pain!
  • Can you live with the back pain? If not...then go for it. I did not have much leg pain-only on and off. My fusions has already changed my life...12 weeks post op tomorrow and the pain is almost gone completely! After years of NONstop 24/7 pain!
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