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Surgeon said "maybe you should wait" Doomed from the start?

bobmacbbobmac Posts: 1
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:50 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello All,

I finally turned to the internet for some help with answers about a back fusion they are recommending I have. I will skip all the crap I've been going through for years.

I will just say that I was seen by a surgeon 15 years ago wanting to do L4 L5 S1 fusion. In those days I was able to make my hip pain go away by sitting down. A couple weeks before the surgery I spoke with some post op patients that told me their symptoms got worse after surgery. They said that if they had been able to make their pain go away by sitting, they would never have had the surgery. I was frightened and could not make up my mind about having surgery. I decided I would do something drastic to make the pain constant and severe enough that surgery would be the only option. I started running. And guess what, the pain started deminishing more each day as I ran a short distance of a city block. Now I was really confused. I called the clinic and asked to speak with the doc. They said he was not in and asked what I needed to speak with him about. When I explained that I was cancelling the surgery it was within 5 minutes that the doc called me back.
I explained that the pain went away during running and that the pain stayed away for periods of time after the run. He could not explain what was happening other than he thought the running motion and movement moved or adjusted my effected area's. He agreed with not having the surgery.

Well I ran for the next 13 years without back or leg pain. In my mid 50's the running slowed down and the pounds went up. So, back to the doc for back pain since I can not even walk for more than 40 steps without terrific hip and leg pain. Symptoms are worse than 15 years ago and getting more severe

I was referred to a surgeon who diagnosed the same old spondy and narrowing of foramin (sp?) He recommended L4,5-S1 fusion and said that my diagnosis was not typical and would most likely require accessing both the front and back during surgury.

When he asked me about my obvious apprehension, he wanted to know what my biggest concern was. He was suprised to hear that my biggest concern was not paralysis, but that I was more concerned about being in worse shape and more pain after the surgery and that complications post surgery might require additional surguries.

His reply somewhat put me back in my seat. He said that perhaps it would be better if I waited. I should have clarified his response better but I took it to mean that my concerns are very likely.

I was very reassured to read Sarah Vans.. post of success stories. Her thread is what directed me to post this question. Though sitting still helps relieve some pain and requires constantly repositioning, it does not work as effective as it did years ago. I've tried running and walking....no way.

So was the surgeon trying to tell me that my fears of being in worse shape after surgery were valid? Though his response was not an answer I had expected, I appreciated his response as it did not seem cocky. He seemed to be genuine and was speaking from his heart.

My perfect solution would be a successful surgury that would allow me to get back in to short 2 or 3 mile jogs and some 5 mile walks. For those of you brave soles who have already concured the fear of surgery, are my hopes of being able to jog or walk distances pain free realistic?

Thanks for reading and any responses.




  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,865
    you will be better or not after surgery. Keep in mind, there are many patients that really do not have the choice, they need the surgery just to be able to walk.

    If your doctor is telling to wait, I think it would be because he/she wants you to think everything over.

    If you go into any surgery, thinking I may be worse with this, I believe you are already starting on a downward spiral. Spinal surgeries (with the exception of Thoracic) are becoming more and more common. Spinal surgery has come a long way, and the procedures and techniques have been refined.

    The most important aspect of this, is to have a surgeon that you trust. If you trust in this person, then that is the right start, if you can not trust the surgeon, then I wouldn't even consider surgery with them.

    If you read enough stories you will find so many that have had problems after surgery and that they wish they never had the surgery to start with.

    But you will also read about the success stories, there are thousands of them. Thing is , people tend to focus in on the bad things after surgery.

    The Spine-Health member community continues to grow.
    But I can tell you how many hundreds of members have left only because their surgery was a total success and now they are living about a pain free life they can.
    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
  • However, in my husband's case, he was walking at least three miles a month after surgery. He had to work up to it gradually but he was having no pain at all and has not since the operation which was a year ago. I really don't know if you should be jogging but he is golfing and swimming again. He has has to adapt for feels a pain free life is well worth the accommodations. He is 67 and an active man.

    I am wondering if your surgeon felt you needed to wait until there was no other options if you wanted to live a fairly comfortable and mobile life. In hubby's case,he was headed for a wheelchair in the next six months if he did not have the fusion so it was really a fairly easy choice to make.

  • Dilauro is spot on. Everything he speaks is total truism and I agree wholeheartedly. Likewise with Beaver's post.

    I haven't undergone surgery to fix my spondy yet, but I am likely going to take the plunge by the end of the year as my pain and nerve problems have gotten pretty damn severe.

    So I totally understand your apprehension. Alot of us spondy's deal with it for years before going under the knife. And over the years, and many consultations, in the past the surgeons (both ortho and neuro) suggested that I should wait until either I just can't stand the pain anymore, or it becomes medically necessary - such as with cauda equina or if the spondy becomes unstable.

    In my case, it is the latter. I've recently learned that my spondy is no longer stable due to pars fractures and as one doc told me, "it will never heal on it's own."

    So, as Dilauro and Beaver said, there are good outcomes as well as bad. It seems that there are more sad stories than positive, but you have to remember that people who have great results generally don't go to support forums for help. They simply move on with their lives. So, try not to let the seeming lack in good stories, make you feel to hopeless.

    And you do have to have total faith in your surgeon and trust his guidance. If he thinks it's safe for you to maybe wait a while longer, then maybe he's right.

    Have you done all the conservative stuff - like physical therapy, epidural injections, oral steroids, etc?

    I certainly wish you luck and hope you'll keep us posted on how you're doin'!
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