Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Veritas-Health LLC has recently released patient forums to our Arthritis-Health web site.

Please visit http://www.arthritis-health.com/forum

There are several patient story videos on Spine-Health that talk about Arthritis. Search on Patient stories
Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
Attention New Members
Your initial discussion or comment automatically is sent to a moderator's approval queue before it can be published.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

How long should I wait to get surgery?

maryelleninnjmmaryelleninnj Posts: 101
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:46 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am 54 years old, and have been suffering from sciatica caused by spondylolisthesis since 2007. My third ESI is scheduled for this Friday. I know the spinal fusion surgery requires a very long recovery period, and is not always successful. If I do decide to get the surgery, would it be better to get it in my 50's, or my 60's? I would like to put it off as long as possible, but don't want my spine degeneration to get so bad that it makes surgery more involved. Any suggestions? I'm afraid to go out on a long disability from work. I may not have a job to go back to.


  • You are going to have to be the one to decide when or even if you should have surgery.

    I can only speak from my own experience, and hope that it will give you an idea of what some people experience. Your case might be different.

    There are a lot of similarities between us. :D

    I am also 54 years old and suffered for a long time with sciatica in both legs caused by Grade 2 spondylolisthesis. My sciatica was progressively getting worse and so in Feb 2008, I went to my doctor.

    He referred me to physiotherapy at the hospital (NHS in UK). I had about 6 weeks physiotherapy and they then referred me on to the back school, which consisted of more physiotherapy, advice on avoiding problems and education on the spine. I completed a 6 week course.
    Then I was referred to a spinal specialist physiotherapy who works under the surgeon. She x-rayed and saw the spondylolisthesis. She said that people manage to live with it, and with care and doing regular exercises and using pain medication, I may be able to avoid surgery (I was adament that I was not interested in having surgery.)

    After about 6 months, I saw a surgeon who said he could see exactly where the pain generator was and would do decompression and fusion surgery when/if I felt I couldn't cope with the pain.

    I continued exercising and desperately trying to avoid surgery. Things were getting worse so I returned to the spinal specialist physiotherapist. She asked if I wanted to see the surgeon. I said no! She ordered an MRI scan. When we got the results things were worse than she had thought. She said it was amazing that I was walking about and felt that the time would come when I had to have the surgery.
    At that time, I felt a bit better, so said I would continue working at avoiding surgery.

    Within a couple of months, things had got much worse so I went back to see her, and asked to see the surgeon. (This was a second opinion surgeon.) He told me that it wasn't if, but when things got worse. He said that he didn't know how long, but that I already had severe stenosis, and eventually I would end up in a wheelchair and if I still didn't have surgery, incontinent. That helped me to make up my mind!!

    Within a month, I had my surgery.
    The recovery has been much better than I expected.
    I am so much better now. The awful sciatica that I had is gone and even the lower back pain is mostly gone. I do still have some nerve pains/tingles etc in my feet and twitching in my calves, but I feel so much better than I did. I would say that my surgery is definately a success.

    I am so glad that I did have surgery and now feel that I can get back to my life again.
    My surgery was 19th March and tomorrow I return to work for the first time. It has been a long recovery time, with some ups and downs, but for me, not as bad as I feared.

    There were some complications along the way;
    blood transfusion needed, incision didn't close properly, wound infection, wound overgranulation needing cauterising being just some of them. Despite all of this, I would still do it all again.

    I was very lucky that I knew that I was entitled to 6 months off work on full pay due to long service with my employer.

    I have problems in my neck and thoracic spine, but at least the terrible sciatica I was getting in both legs is solved. :D

    Wow! I've just seen how long this post is!! Well done if you have read to the end. :D

  • Im 47 and having a spinal fusion in 3 weeks time
  • I think a standard response is that you will know when it is time and to put it off as long as possible.

    I had an L5/S1 fusion this summer. I am 41 years old and started having problems about 5 years ago. Saw my primary and then went on to the spine doctors. Started PT 5 years ago, continued with the gym right up until my surgery this spring. Between shedding pounds, increasing core strength and with the use of Neurontin, I put the thing off for 5 years. Eventually the quality of life changed too much for the negative and I opted for surgery.

    Being in good shape prior to surgery definitely helped. I am now almost 3 months out. Surgery took care of the problems (numb legs at night, burning, etc). I occasionally have leg pain at night, but my quality of life is 90% improved. I have had 6 weeks of PT and am again at the gym working the treadmill, recumbent bike, stairs and lots of stretching. Every body is different.

    Good luck!
  • Thanks for all the advice. I am truly worried about the long recovery time, so will try to put it off as long as possible. I keep hoping for more advances in treatment, and less invasive surgery. i am sooooo ready for my injection tomorrow. I sure hope it lasts longer than the last one did.
  • but the alternative is to end up in a wheelchair and i dont want that !!
    ive had all the injections etc and it didnt work for me so its the last chance saloon for me
    Hope you get somewhere with your pain management xx
  • i am 44 and for the last 15 i have been in pain and for the last 4 years i have been suffering with intractable pain {very nasty} i had my first back operation when i was around 30 {after a car crash} i did not think so at the time ..but i had a good result from it ..but as the years went on my back and leg pain got worse and worse ..to the point 4 years ago i got out of bed and hit the floor in agony ..this ended in an emergency laminectomy and discectomy from L4/S1 ..from this the incontractible pain started and my life has changed so much so that i dont know who i am anymore i have lost so much of what made me ME ..i am now going for a discography in 3 weeks time to see if my back is strong enough to have a 360 multi level fusion {3 level} this is a specialised operation and it has a 3 year recover rate ..total pain removal is not going to happen but hopefully i should be better than i am now ..i was a fit healthy man i am now as bad as a person with bone cancer {pain wise THIS IS MY DOCTORS WORDS NOT MINE} .I spend most of my life on my recliner and my life is just constant pain only dulled a bit with large amounts of oxycontin ..as for sleep i get 2 hours then i wake in awful sickening pain .i never thought that i would go from what i was to what i am in a short time .SO my advice to you is .yes go and have an operation before you need to {emergency one then have no choice on who dose it} get a surgeon that is a total expert and put your trust in him/her .get at least 3 opinions and .good luck to you .if you are in the uk i can give you my surgeons name
  • Straker, I'm so sorry you have such pain. I will pray for you.

    I am nearly 50 y.o. and have had back pain for 20 years, with leg pain starting over 2 years ago. The ESI helped a lot in the beginning but now last only 3 weeks or so. I decided to have a fusion of L4/5 but insur. co. denied it. I've done PT, Chiropractic and ESI's. We are trying to appeal their decision. But for the last week my leg has felt not as much throbbing and burning!! So if I'm approved I wonder if I should still do it!!! I think yes (but fear tells me no) because foraminal stenosis will only continue to get worse. I have severe DDD, foraminal stenosis and a transitional lumbosacral level at L5/S1. This last detail I believe made L5/4 work extra hard and it took a beating.

    I keep praying about whether to have surgery or not and with the way the USA insurance system is going, I think I should if it's approved. If I wait it may never get approved! And my nerve compression will continue to get worse.

    Sorry for the rambling --- it's all so confusing and frightening.

    Prayers to all of you Spiney friends,
  • Maryellen, I too wonder if I should have the surgery. Three of my female friends tell me to do it now while I'm healthy and have no other health problems. My husband tells me it's completely up to me. I'm nearly 50 y.o. and have a 9 y.o. and a 14 y.o. They need me! The long recovery scares me. How will I help them? I don't have family near by to help but do have some good friends. I won't be able to drive for a long time.

    This is a tough decision but If my insurance co. approves it I think I will do it since there's no chance this condition will improve on it's own. I have foraminal stenosis, severe DDD, right leg pain and numbness. Very scarey.

    Good luck with your injection today and your surgery decision,
  • Hey there,

    Like others said, it's up to you.
    What does that mean? Take the time to do your research which it seems you are doing, understand the recovery and risks.

    I had a bad disc blow out a year ago. I opted for microdiscectomy (as that was an option but ESI was not looking promising). That failed and had 2 choices - fusion or revision MicrD. It was a tough decision but I opted to hold off on the fusion and give the revision another try. Mainly for the same concerns you stated.

    I think what's most important is to be prepared. Be prepared by learning about it as much as possible so that in the event you run out of options, you feel more confident about your decision. Also, if you end up in a more 'urgent' situation, you won't be as scared of what lies ahead.

    For me, I continue to come to these boards to understand options, risks, recovery, etc. I hope my revision MIcroDiscectomy holds. But if it doesn't, I want to be prepared and not feel like I have to make a rush decision.

    Good luck
  • The younger you are the better the recovery. Sorry, but
    that is a fact. Things usually will not get better with time.
  • Janiebaby said:
    but the alternative is to end up in a wheelchair and i dont want that !!
    ive had all the injections etc and it didnt work for me so its the last chance saloon for me
    Hope you get somewhere with your pain management xx
    Who told you that you would wind up in a wheelchair? I have been told that it is rare that the sciatica causes permanent nerve damage.


  • I mentioned earlier in this thread, that my surgeon told me that if I didn't have surgery, I would end up in a wheelchair. I think that the risk for that to happen was because of the very severe stenosis that I had, my legs would become so weak that I would struggle to walk.
    I had reached the stage where I could only stand or walk for a few minutes before being in pain and needing to sit down.

    I believe that paralysis from lumbar stenosis is rare but as it progresses, their is weakness and foot drop and numbness. Not absolutely sure about this, but this is what I think. :-)
Sign In or Register to comment.