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when is too much too much

terror8396tterror8396 Posts: 1,831
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:36 AM in Chronic Pain
I know it is an individual choice but when do we give up with surgery? how much is too much? it seems like we reach a point of no return when it comes down to surgery. I've had 4 back surgeries with a possible 5th next year. i might have hardware removed and a stenosis decompressed. but 5 seems like a lot to have. i know surgeries cause scar tissue and other problems, but if one thinks they need another to fix then what. one dr says no more surgery and another thinks it might be a possibility in the future. if so then one might get the reputation of a person who is knife happy. i am inclined to have one more to get out hardware and fix stenosis but this might cause instability on the disc above it. is there someone who has had more than 4 back surgeries and has it worked. my surgeon told me a story of a back dr who fused all lumbar disc in back so there would be no surgeries
5 would seem to be the max for me but what if this causes something else
just wondering
I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.


  • I would never have another back surgery - but that's me. I think you have to see several doctors and way their different opinions and base your decision upon the information you get. I have had my hardware out and I didn't think that was a very big deal in comparision to fusion. I don't know about the other part of it tho. I'd way the risks of will it cause more problems down the road? If so, what are the chances of that happening and am I prepared for it if it does. I don't think there is much more you can do besides getting all the information about the particular surgery and make a decision. I don't think anyone would say anyone is knife happy - just lookin' to find some relief. If someone says that about you - who cares? They don't walk (or limp) in your shoes. Do what you think is best for Jon! Good luck - Marion
  • That is a really hard decision to make. Would it really make a difference if you go under one more time? It's hard to say. Is it worth subjecting yourself to more surgery and a painful recovery? What if the pain you already have is worsened by another surgical intervention? Indeed these are hard questions to think about.

    Remember that dumb show "Celebrity Rehab" with what's his face from "Grease?" Dr. Drew said he is addicted to having surgery and his pain meds. This is NOT you of course, but I wonder how many people keep having surgery after surgery in the hopes of that the next one will be "it"- the one that works. I don't see how someone could enjoy going under the knife. We do it because we have to because, let's say, there is nerve compression or instability. Could it be that this guy is "knife happy" or is he simply just desperately trying to get relief? I think he is just wanting to get his problems fixed. Who wouldn't? This is just an observation that crossed my mind when I read Mouse's post and in no way, shape, or form I'm saying that it's about you.

    Whatever you decide to do, you know we'll back you 100% and we want the very best for you. You are smart, intelligent, and witty person with a lot of experience in this dept. and I know you'll do what you think it best. If you think it's worth another shot, then go right ahead. Only you know your body and your pain the best. If you don't want to and would like to contemplate things longer, then that is just as good. Anyhow, I hope it all works out for you. Take care

  • it looks like my story i am a few surgeries behind you ..{had 2 and may require a third!}but is you say what then more pain killers /scar tissue etc and you are back to square one again ..to answer your question ..i carnt ..as i am in the same position .its like a living death sentence ..i cal my living room the living coffin as i spend all my time in it in some degree of pain ..i suppose that when new pain or symptoms drive you to seek medical help and then the medics carnt offer you anything ..but more drugs ..then you are in effect terminal!! i know that is a bit strong but its straight from my doctor mouth and he is right..yes we could live a long time with evil debilitating pain ..but ask your self do you want too..???
  • jlrfryejjlrfrye ohioPosts: 1,110
    I have had 6 surgeries. 2 lower lumbar and 4 cervical. NO surgeon will do surgery on me again. It is what it is. I have had enough.
  • thanks for the input. I can't believe there is someone who has had more surgeries than i have had susan. both of us could set off all the alarms in the airports world wide with all the metal we have. the guy on celebrity rehab wanted surgery but dr refused. i think it has to do with his meds. he always wanted to go home and take his vicodin i think. then he would yell and scream about how he wantd to die. what a drama queen or king. this is a major decision to make. my old ortho retired so i have to get a new one. my new mri said i have the closure of the spine due to disc buldging. i don't know how much it is buldging but i am afraid of pressure put on good disc above my old fusion
    once again thanks for the input
    I have 4 fusions from L5-3, the latest last May '12 where they fixed my disc that broke.They went through my side this time. I take 40 mg of oxycontin 4x a day and 4 fenatyl lollipops 300 micro gms 4x a day.
  • it's really up to you, and how you feel. If you think you've had enough, and feel you can't go through it again, then enough is enough. But, if the cons of not having surgery outweigh the cons of having surgery (ie if you don't have surgery you face paralysis) then I think it's something to definitely consider, after getting multiple opinions.
    I personally don't think that any surgery is going to rid us of all our pain, it may help with some, the problem is not knowing if it's going to create more, or different pain after.
    I wish you luck, and that you're able to come to the right decision for you.
    APROUD CANADIANveteranButNOTa doctor, my thoughts are my own
  • I've had 14 surgeries, but just 2 are spinal. All the other ones, including a hysterectomy, is a piece of cake compared to the last 2. I will be having #15 soon for a pain pump implantation so it will be another spinal surgery for me. I hope to get better pain relief out of this one, and any improvement is a good improvement.

    I'm doing it because my trial went well and I know this is right for me. Any surgery after a fusion is like gravy and I think I'll handle it okay. I've read all I could about it and I feel comfortable about it and I also understand what I'm getting into in a way. Before all this I felt that I didn't want any more surgery or invasive procedures on my back. I had grown weary and skeptical that anything would help. Then I had my pump trial and it changed my mind about giving things another try.

    Well, that's my story so far. Please let us know if you do go on to have surgery. Take care
  • This was my 10th. I am very sick of being in the hospital and more sick of watch all my life being spent in recovery. If I don't have these surgeries I know it will end my life. I know for each of us its a hard decision to make. I really hate having to see anyone have to go thru this.
    I guess the question is will your life be better with or without the surgeries? I know for me I don't have the choice. Seriously I don't. Only 2 of mine have been back surgeries. One cancer and to many bowel obstuctions to count. And I know I will continue to have surgeries until the find a cure for my issue problem.

    I do wish you the BEST OF LUCK on the future.
  • Jon,
    Good question, part of this is the hope that the next surgery will be the one that will in some way rectify all that has gone before it and to some extent you enter every surgery as a new individual, inherent of the remnants of your last procedure.

    What ramification this will have on the overall process is as said very personal to you and this would have to be discussed in every detail with your surgeon, hope is a pervasive encourager in that it pushes us past what may be reasonable expected. It is debatable if concurrent surgeries take us away for that initial objective whatever it was at the time, to reclaim our past existence. For many the condition that they have determines what should be done and the outcome has no reflection that it was the correct decision at the time, irrespective of what happens after that, do I regret my failed fusion, what option did I have at the time I could not work or partake in any normal existence and my own quality of life capacity on a downward slide.

    Proportionate to the amount of spine surgery done, we may be judged to have been unlucky in the outcome that we have and if it is your function that is diminishing no amount of reported success will change it. One would expect all impeding procedures to exude confidence and that statistical risk an element of success only an individual can determine.

    The pertinent question may be will this procedure make me better in any way, and what are the risks, if we set our expectation at some improvement, then we may not be disappointed, did the 2nd 3rd 4th bring about expected improvement and what makes this process different from the last. You could ask how this procedure will be any more successful than those previously, we all understand the objective, is it feasible. I used to ask the surgeon what he would do in my situation and then it was up to me.

    All of this is a leap of faith and we should make this decision based on good current diagnosis, rather than any historical evidence or inflated hope. As said, only you know and many here have had that impending and difficult decision to make, the alternative is to do nothing, can we endure a liveable pain.

    When and where we stop is up to us and you have to be positive in all aspects that is the decision you can live with, my professor said for me nothing could be done, even though it may have not been what I wanted to hear, it was the truth and it took a lot of guts to look me between the eye and say those words. If you look long and hard we can always find someone that agrees with our expectations, is that really to our advantage in the longer term. Nobody wants a painful existence even when they have no other option.

    None of this is easy and our thoughts are with you as you equate your options.

    Good luck John
  • Well put!I so agree!
    I know for myself further surgery is inevitable. I'm all fir anything that has a chance of a good outcome even if there's the possibility of another bad outcome.
    I want relief and if it's going to give me hope of relief I'm fir it.
    I'm not knife happy, how are we knife happy?
    I thought that's what drs are suppose to be called. I'm relief happy, or at least hopeful.
    I always ask my surgeon, if this was your wife or kid, would it be a good idea to go through with this on them. He's so blunt and straight forward. Like my second neck surgery, the MRI showed it was feesable(sp?) to wait. I said let's do it becuz it I felt as bad as I did before the first neck surgery. He agreed to do it, and said afterwards it was way worse than MRI showed. The first one was a success, I actually went home the same nite. The second was a fails surgery, but was worth the try. I'd do it again if it comes up. The first successful one outways the second failure. Odds are against us, but sometimes you never know unless we at least try. It may work and it may not.
    Any surgery will have a chance to help, or not.
    Like my back surgery, it worked, but the added pain to the rest of my spine was awful.
    But my lower back where the op happened feels good. It may be the only part of my spine that feels good, but it helped that area, but the rest of my spine sux now.
    If he says let's do it, whatever may need done,I will do it again.
    It is worth the effort at least. But are all different in what we will go through to get better and have relief. Fear is not an option fir some of us. I have only the fear of feeling like I do now for the rest of my life. It's not ok with me to stay this way!
    Good luck with your descision! It can only be a personal one!
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,878
    Jon, as usual you know how to come up with a subject that requires a lot of thought in responding to.
    My first surgery was in 1978 and what I hope my last was in 2000. The three more recent of those surgeries ending up with complications, not from the actual surgery, but Osteomyelitis, Problems with the bone graft, fevers, etc. For those reasons alone I really do not want to go for another surgery.
    After 2000 I did herniate 5 thoracic discs and that situation immobilized me more than any of my cervical or lumbar problems. The surgery procedures to correct that situation at the time seemed to barbaric, plus the fact that the herniations also span different T levels.
    Instead I've tried all other measures to avoid surgery and maintain a good quality of life. I've been winning that battle and it is a battle. If I stop and give up for a while, I will be back using a cane and not moving well at all.
    If a new surgery would correct all of this, would I have it? I think not, 30+ years of dealing with spinal problems, I do not want to subject my spine to more, and my doctors agree.
    But this is me, close to 60 and I know what I have to do to keep on trucking.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I've had 7 spinal surgeries. I can walk without a cane. I can feel all of my fingers and my arms are functional. I feel very fortunate to have had these surgeries without complications. And I'll do it again if necessary. I'd be in a wheelchair if I hadn't had these surgeries. And I'd have no use of my right arm. For me, surgery was the best option. I know it's a tough situation and a hard decision for many of us. It was the only answer for me.
    Faith M
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