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Flipping Out

lizzyboollizzyboo Posts: 24
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:46 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Okay, I am totally freaking out, scared out of my mind and terribly confused. To make a long story short, I have had 3 back surgeries in 3 years. First was a bilateral lumbar laminectomy that was supposed to be done at L4-5, but the doctor screwed up and did surgery at L3-4. I obviously didn't get better. Tried the trial of the spinal cord stimulator and was going to go forward with that but then I injured L3-4 (where the doctor screwed up) when I carried my then 2 year old in to daycare. I then had a two level fusion L3-5 in June 2009 and then had my hardware removed in June of 2010. Still have had problems, and then within the last month my problems completely worsened. I have extreme back pain and pain in my butt and right leg all the way down to my toes. I called my surgeon and they scheduled me for an MRI. I see him this coming Thursday. His nurse was not overly specific but said that my MRI showed that I had bulging discs at L3-4 and L4-5 and that I had an extreme amount of scar tissue. She said that the doctor would need to look at it to let me know if any of the bulges or scar tissue were compromising any of my nerves. How can you have bulging discs where you had a fusion surgery?? Has this ever happened to anyone else? I asked the nurse and she said something about you can't if you have an interbody fusion? All I know is that I had a two level fusion. I had two rods (bars) and screws and he used BMP. Can doctors redo fusions, or can they remove scar tissue? If I have to have another surgery I am just going to die. I have a 3 year old daughter who has never known me to be well, which just breaks my heart, my husband and I are separated partially because of my chronic pain issues, and I will totally lose my job. Does anyone know if you do have a compromised nerve, can you do permanent damage if you wait to take care of it? Any thoughts or information will be so incredibly appreciated.

1987 - compression fracture L3-4
Too many injections to even count
2008 - Bilateral laminectomy supposed to be done at L4-5 but it was done at L3-4
2009 trial of spinal cord stimulator
June 2009 - two level fusion L3-5
June 2010 - hardware removal
currently taking, Oxycontin, Norco, Valium, Baclofen, Neurontin and Cymbalta


  • Just an opinion, but I think you should try to remain calm until you see your doctor on Thursday. In my experience, the people that work in doctor's offices have limited knowledge about these things, and especially imaging that is so complex as the MRI. Your doctor can explain everything to you, and talk with him about options for you. Ask him about a plan of care.

    Take care,

  • I don't blame you for freaking out. Hopefully, you can gain enough information and support here to help you through whatever happens next.

    It is my understanding that the disc is removed during fusion surgery, otherwise there wouldn't be a need to fuse the vertibrae. There can be partial discectomies and other types of surgery which leave the disc but I believe a fusion involves removing the disc. I am scheduled for L4-S1 interbody fusion next month and know that my discs will be removed.

    As for permanent damage to a compromised nerve, yes, that is what can happen. My L5 nerve is being pinched and I've been told that it will probably be okay to wait until September to have my surgery--my choice to wait that long--the "probably" meaning the nerve will likely still recover. I think it depends a lot on the person and how long, how severely, and in what way the nerve is being compromised. I'm speaking from what I understand, not from any specific medical knowledge. Your doctor should answer that question for you, specifically. You haven't said if you've continued to see the same surgeon who did your first surgery, but it would seem very prudent for you to be getting second and third opinions on your present condition before being talked into yet another surgery. You need to understand and be comfortable with the treatment offered you. I don't mean that you should WANT another surgery, just that you need to be in charge of what happens to you next--be on board with it and be confirmed in your own mind that you're following the best course of treatment for you.

    2009 Foraminotomy C6-72010 PLIF L4-S1Multi RFA's, cervical inj, lumbar injLaminectomy L3-4 and fusion w/internal fixation T10-L4 July 17Fusion C2-C5 yet to be scheduled
  • Lisa is correct, you need to relax and wait to hear what your doctor has to say. The nurse is correct, if you've had an interbody fusion, they remove the disc. Here are some animated Spine Health videos depicting some of the different types of fusion that can be performed: Take a deep breath. Good luck with your appointment.

  • Thanks Dave. Those videos were helpful. I now know that I just had the bare bones fusion surgery which would certainly explain why I now have bulging discs where surgery was. I know my surgeon, whom I totally love and do trust, always wants to do the more conservative approach given the fact I am 35 years old. I know I need to relax. It will be what will be. Half of my brain knows that, it is just the other half of my brain that can't stop running different scenarios in my head. I am just tired of all this crap and don't know how much fight I have left in me. I have been treating non stop for nearly 10 years and it just seems that my hope is continuously shattered and I keep going downhill versus uphill. I am sick of this consuming so much of my life and I am having a horrible time mentally with everything. I have turned into someone I barely recognize anymore, and despite my best efforts, I just keep sinking. In a sense it is nice to know I am not coo coo and there is a reason why I am feeling the way that I do, just the thought of going through more crap is about more than I can bare. Thanks for your support
  • Linda,

    Thank you for your reply. After looking at some of the surgery videos, I had the more simplistic fusion done, which would explain why I now have bulging discs at those levels.
    I do not go to the same surgeon that screwed up. He had the worse bedside manner that I had ever seen, but the law office that I worked at used him as an expert in a lot of our cases which is partly why I went back to him. I first saw him in 2004 and then went back in 2007. I love my surgeon now. He is well known in our community as being a terrific surgeon and he has a great bedside manner and takes the time to explain things. Like I was telling Dave, I am just beyond frustrated. I have been treating for nearly 10 years and I seem to be getting worse versus better. Mentally I am doing horrible as I just can't seem to find my optimism or that fight in me that I once had. With every procedure there was hope and each time that hope was shattered. I always have that logical part of my brain that knows how I SHOULD be, but that part is getting smaller and smaller. I am just so tired. My stupid back and leg pain has just taken over my life and I hate that I have turned into something I barely recognize. At age 35 I am having a hard time realizing that I need to change my life plan and recognize my limitations. I so desperately wanted to have another baby which more than likely will not happen, and I have never been the type of person who sits on the sidelines and it just sucks.

    I hope your surgery scheduled for next month will be successful and will certainly be sending happy thoughts and prayers your way.

  • Lizzyboo,
    I have never had lumbar surgery before. I did have a cervical fusion C5-6, C6-7, March 2008. I have ended up with more pain than prior to the surgery. I had a complete tear of m rt. rotator cuff for which I had surgery 2003. It has no retorn. A few other surgeries and always have had one problem after another.
    I have had to leave my job after 29yrs 11mos. 26 days. Neck problems due to work injury however, CEO filled out wrong paperwork for WC, so I have had to get an attorney. Also, neurosurgeon paralysed my right vocal cord during cervical fusion and I can barely speak. Sorry for rambling on about my condition I just want to really say I can totally understand your fear or any more surgeries. I have gone through every non-invasive treatment out there and I feel like no matter what I do I am always going backwards. Along with being in constant pain I am so sleep deprived I don't know how I can get through the days. But I have told myself I have to be as positive as I can. Each day I start out on a positive note.
    I really want to say I will be thinking of you and praying for you. I am 49 and thought I was young but you are so young to have to be dealing with all this. My heart really goes out to you. Your post just really touched me and I do hope things get better for you. Do you ever feel like you just want to be left alone and not have to deal with this on a day to day basis? Sometimes life seems to unfair. If you ever need to talk or just someone to listen please feel free to PM me as emotionally I know this really takes a toll on a person. Good luck Lizzy!
  • Tammy,

    It sounds like the surgeon who did your first fusion didn't remove the disc because it wasn't called for at the time. Surgeons try to do as little "cutting" as possible on a patient. It's good to hear that you trust your present surgeon because that's so important. The problem right now is that you sound depressed to me--which is totally understandable. I agree with Lisa and Dave that you should try and relax between now and Thursday when you get your results. Today has enough trouble of its own and tomorrow may not turn out to be as bad as it seems right now. Relax and let us do some of the worrying for you. It's my prayer time now and I'm going to be praying for you, Tammy, if you don't mind. :)

    2009 Foraminotomy C6-72010 PLIF L4-S1Multi RFA's, cervical inj, lumbar injLaminectomy L3-4 and fusion w/internal fixation T10-L4 July 17Fusion C2-C5 yet to be scheduled
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