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question about bladder/bowel dysfunction

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
Hello everyone.
I had a discectomy and laminotomy on L4-5 and L5-S1 in 2003, and may be now facing a two-level fusion. (I REALLY do not want to do this and am starting physical therapy but even the therapist isn't optimistic she can help me prevent this surgery.)
Anyway, on Monday I saw my neurosurgeon and he told me that there is always a possibility of the disc completely erupting and causing loss of bladder and bowel control.
This idea terrifies me. Does anyone know anything about this?
Does it just happen suddenly? Are you just one minute fine and the next minute you have lost control of your bladder and/or bowels? Or would you have warning? Is this the way it happens?
My dr did say that if that happens and you have an emergency fusion it's not a permanent condition and it is fixed when you have the surgery, but this idea still really freaks me out.. If this happens without warning, it scares me that it could happen at work or somewhere in public....


  • Your information given to you by the doctor is correct in so far as it goes. More common than having the disc "erupt" is to have a nerve compression that disrupts the nerve signals that effect the bowel and bladder. This is one of the few instances were a back problem is considered a medical emergency. It can lead to cauda equina syndrome which you can read about here:


    and here:


    I believe it is highly unlikely that this condition would come on as suddenly as what you describe...but I know people do wake up in bed to discover "an accident" so there is not necessarily any warning either.

    What your surgeon did not mention is that this can be an unintended consequence of having lower lumbar surgery. It doesn't happen often, but is not unheard of.

    Just read up on "cauda equina" to learn more....


  • ...I am right now just finding out about the dangers that are there with these back issues...
    I have what the neuro calls an "unstable back"...CT scans show I have no disc left between my tail bone and next vertebrae up...The vertebrae is pushed to the right ...there is a narrowing of the nerve channel( also has a name)( I know it has a number but I always forget it :)...maybe the pain meds...)
    They will not do surgery as the complications with fusion when there is no disc can cause a domino effect up the spine due to the "pull-down"....
    Right now I am just finding the meds to manage the pain,building my core muscles, doing PT, stretches(gently) water work outs and "RECUMBANT" stationary bike....
    Just recently I made the mistake of thinking an upright stationary bike was good too...WRONG....
    I pedalled careful and felt no pain so I proceeded...after about 5 minutes I experienced the need to pee!!( can I say that on here?)...I knew I didn't have to because I had gone to the washroom before I came into the basement to pedal because stairs and I don't get along very well right now...the feeling got more intense so I figured I'd better heed the call...when I stood up it was like a bucket of ice had been thrown on me...my butt my groin my thighs were totally numb and my legs were not wanting to hold me.....I felt sick to my stomach and broke into a cold sweat....I got upstairs and went to the washroom....I did pee a very little bit but did not have any sensation of it...I got to my recliner which fully reclines flat, got my back supported up into a semi "neutral" postion with the heat pad, took 100mg/codeine and waited.....After about 4 hours it let up and the feeling slowly started to return...
    By the next morning I was tender but had full feeling....WHEW!!what the ??? was that???
    When I went for my routine dr appointment I told him and YOWZA was I ever told in very firm words that I was a VERY LUCKY GIRL....when this happens..you go DIRECTLY to the ER....you call 911 and you get to the ER.There is a three day window to get treatment( I live up in the northern booneys and would need to be medivaced) and after that you can be paralyzed....this is a spinal cord issue not a nerve issue....
    Apparently I did everything right and my back readjusted and stabilized.....but that was my guardian angel not me!!!
    I had no idea....the bike didn't hurt...thats how easily it can happen...
    Treat yourself well and do not take chances....I know this sure changed my outlook on things.
    It is up to me to work with my dr's and the therapists and treat myself like I can break! because I actually can....
    Take care of yourself....
  • I too was told this is a potential risk for my condition. I have a high grade 3 spondylolisthesis. I was told that any farther could compress the nerve that controls my bladder/bowels. To say the least I'm a little freaked out. I have decided to have a fusion, but am still concerned of what might happen if I wait too long to have the surgery. I'll let you know what happens! Good luck :)
  • I have the same thing but no or very. Little control over my bladder and bowel now I have all feeling just no control over it... I can go if I bear dwn or take laxative.... Someone please tell me this go's away after a L5S1 compression. And how long before things return... I have no pain at all
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