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New introduction... very scared, need advice...

territtterrit Posts: 4
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:40 AM in New Member Introductions
Hi, I am new to the forum and would appreciate any advice. I have suffered from lower back pain (and sometimes neck pain) for years. I live in a small town and every doctor that I went to dismissed my pain/symptoms and sent me home with pain pills. I finally forced my way into a specialists office in July 09 and have been trying non surgical treatments since. The epidurals last only 3 weeks and the pain is getting much more severe and chronic. I used to have good days inbetween flair ups, but not anymore.

I am unable to do most everything and can hardly even walk on most days. I am 38 and have always been a very active person, so this is very hard for me to deal with.

The spinal specialist said that he felt that I had to many painful disks so I would only be a candidate for a 3 level fusion if I resorted to surgery. The discogram confirmed that I have level V degeneration in 3 discs and they are all producing pain, not just the one with herniation.

The doctor that performed the discogram (and is in the same practice as the surgeon) said that he didn't think that the surgeon would do "that extensive of a surgery" on me. I am seeing a Neurosurgeon on Monday to get a second opinion and am waiting to go back into the spinal surgeon for his opinion after the discogram.

I am feeling very scared of the possibility of surgery (if they can do it)or the possibility of living like this... Does anyone have information about disc replacment on a multi levels instead of fusion? I know it is not approved in the US currently, but I wonder if it will be anytime soon.

Thanks for the help.


  • My understanding is multi-level disc replacements are in fact being performed in the US. Please send me a private message and I will be happy to provide you with the clinic I am at that is one of premiere facilities in the US performing artificial disc replacement. I am a recipient of one in my lower back, six years post-op and I am doing really well with it.

    My neck is another story. Had it fused 4 months ago. Jury is out on its success so far.

  • I looked at the web site you gave and it makes me wonder why the doctors I have seen are not telling me this? Why did your doctors do a fusion on your neck instead of the artificial disks?

    Thanks again for your information, it is giving me some hope now.
  • I can relate to your situation all to well. I had a 3 level cervical fusion in 2006. I wasn't even considered for a disk replacement before my operation. I was told multi levels were done by fusion and only single levels were done by disk replacement because you do not want to have this kind of surgery over once its done. A have a few things to inform you about, Surgery will improve things but only if you listen to your doctor and do as he/she says. You will improve each day but don't expect to wake up from surgery and your pain is gone. In fact the pain will be worse before it gets better. Many people go into surgery thinking that after they wake up everything is like it was before. They are sadly mistaken. There will be many restriction and instructions you must follow to allow your body time to heal. A fusion is new bone insterted where your disks are removed and after the healing process it becomes a solid bone. I would do what your doctor recommends. He/she is the specialist and has been educated and knows best. You must also say to your self what do you expect from this surgery? My answer was i expect my doctor to make me better. He seemed happy with my answer because no surgery will fix you to the state before you started having all of these problems. Actually back surgery will only fix radiating pain shooting down your legs/or if its the neck area the pain shooting down your arms. After that your stuck with whats left. My surgery went well and my arm pain went away. My neck pain is always there to some degree. Some days are good and others are bad but there better then before the surgery, so improving things was accomplished. The doctor will give you pain medicine to take and it's there to take not to look at. I have read many posts here about people who think they are all better and stop taking the pain pills in fear they will be come addicted. Well this will not happen if you take the pills as directed. If you wait till the pain is severe the pain pills will not help much. I even met someone here who tried mowing 2 weeks after her fusion. I asked her if her doctors instructions said she was allowed to mow? she said NO! well she had a set back after that and was more miserable then the day she came home that evening. So it's very important to follow the instructions and take your meds as prescribed. Well that's my 2 cents worth. :)
    2005-ACDF with Corpectomy at C3-C-5.
    2006-L4-L5 diskectomy.
    2009-Cervical laminectomy at C3.
    Steroid injections series x 4.
  • Is the three level problem in the lumbar area? I wasn't sure because you also mentioned cervical.

    Some things to think about before you make up your mind:

    at this point in time, there is NO biomedical material that can be implanted into the body that has a life-span beyond the twenty year mark. For this reason, there is great reluctance to place artificial discs in younger people -- and the age varies among surgeons.

    The problem remains that the surgery to remove an artificial disc after it has been placed is regarded as "life-threatening" surgery. In other words, they are much harder to remove than they are to place.
    While multi-level disc replacement is more common in the cervical area, it is not considered as successful with the lumbar location.

    These are just a few of the things that you need to research and think about before getting too excited about ADR.

    You will find that there are several people on the board about your age who have had multi-level fusion. You might want to look for their posts and get acquainted.

    Regardless of what you do, be sure to get several opinions and check thoroughly the surgeons' credentials, the number of times they have performed a procedure, etc. It is very important to do your homework. Remember, there is little need to rush into a decision regarding spine surgery. Unless you should develop bladder or bowel problems...like incontinence, etc...Then it is considered a medical emergency and you should go to the ER right away if you cannot get a hold of your doctor.

    You will find much information on this website, including peer-reviewed articles written by spinal specialists and, of course, the forum. Please post often with your questions and comments. We are here to help.

  • hi and welcome to the forum! :H we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can. all the best for feeling better soon! :D Jenny :)
  • Looks like you are on the right track. Seeing both an orthopedic and neurosurgeon is best especially before considering surgery IMO. You've also tried other non-surgical methods. Have you tried PT yet? There are other types of injections to try besides just the steriods.

    You've come to the right place to get the answers to the questions you are looking for. You can do a search on this site to find any of the information you are looking for such as different injections, multi-level fusions or artificial disc replacements. In addition to the wealth of knowledge on this site, you will find the members to be very supportive.

    I'm not a medical professional and can only give you advice based on my own personal experiences and opinions.

    I feel everyone's healing process after surgery is different. There are many factors that contribute how well you will recover such as age, weight, health etc. I was told by both specialists that I seen that it's unrealistic to expect to be 100% pain free after surgery but you should feel significantly better. There are those who don't feel better and actually can feel worse and there are many that feel terrific.

    You should definitely do as much research as you can before considering surgery.

    I'm one of those who didn't take it easy after my fusion. I was push mowing my yard 1 month after surgery and raking as well as tending to my garden. My surgeon told me there was nothing I could do to hurt my fusion and I was only on lifting restrictions for 6wks due to the incision thru my stomach (I had anterior fusion thru belly). I went 4wheeling on my ATV 1-2 months after surgery and our trails are pretty rough. Then I had a fall about 3months after surgery and I've been worse off since. I often wonder if it's from the fall or all the above. I will never know the answer. I now have 2 broken screws and found out I wasn't fusing as I should be so all these activities was causing stress on the screws and hardward since there was no hard bone in there.

    I'm now under pain mgmt, doing epidural steroid injections (ESI) and trying anything I can to try to be in less pain. I have an appt on 1/12 to see the neurosurgeon I went to for 2nd opinion and hope to find out if there is something they can do to ease the pain as I'm on lots of meds and it doesn't seem to alleviate the pain. I just keep building a tolerance to whatever they give me.

    I'm sorry this is so long and hope you take the time to read. Please feel free to PM me with any questions, comments or concerns or if you just want someone to chat with.

  • You sound a lot like me in the past. I was never properly diagnosed with my back and kept working past the pain.. Back to work always too quickly (even after shoulder surgery, etc), but with my back I will listen to my doc. I learned now with the shape my back is in.

    I am still scared to death of having a 3 level fusion in my lumbar spine. I'll post after seeing both the Neurosurgeon and the Spinal surgeon again.

    I have tried PT as well and cortizone shots in addition to the other treatments. I am determined to try everything I can before I have surgery!

    Thanks for the advice. Hope all goes well with your failed fusion and you are able to get some relief from the pain.
  • Hi Gwennie,

    The 3 level fusion is in my lumbar spine. L 2-3, 3-4 and 4-5 are "collapsed" so one doctor said. I am hoping that the Neurosurgeon can help me in some other way... After reading for the past week pretty much non stop I am willing to try and prevent surgery as long as I can. Neither the ADR or fusion sound like a good option that will last.

    I have tried PT a few times, Accupuncture, ESI's, etc, but am will to try new things and repeat most of these just to knonw in my own head that I tried absoulutely everything before having surgery. I am too young to have surgery just to have it fail in my 40's or 50's or possibly cause more pain. Although the next time I am bedridden completely for 2 weeks I may change my mind...

    Thanks so much for your advice. Any that I can get right now is appreciated.


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