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Fusion Surgery- Please help I'm confused :-(

peppappeppa Posts: 11
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:52 AM in Degenerative Disc Disease
I was diagnosed with DDD over a year ago now, at 3 levels, along with 3 herniated and bulging discs. Managed with it well for the past 6 years but am now strongly considering surgery. Spoke with the surgeon last Wednesday but he seems reluctant to carry out surgery as my legs aren't massively affected by my pain. He says if they were to do surgery it wouldn't help much as my legs aren't affected.

However, I am confused because I have also been told that if my vertebrae were to fuse naturally in 10-15 years I would be pain free as the bad discs would no longer be there.

With this theory in mind, would I not benefit from pain relief if the surgeons were to fuse my vertebrae manually? I may not be understanding it correctly but surely this would be an obvious solution. The pain is so bad now that I am no longer able to do anything that defines me and am fast losing hope for a future.
Claire x


  • I would get a second or even third opinion about this. Have you been to a Pain Management Dr. and physiotherapy yet? You probably have since you've been living like this for 6 years. I hope you get some pain relief soon. Take care. CHarry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Hi CHarry,
    Yeah my first treatment was physio, followed by pain group, accupuncture, pain management, massages, chiropractor, Epidural and Facet Joint Injections. I think I am going to get 2nd opinion because when I went for first MRI results last January the surgeon at the time said he would accept me for surgery if I wanted it but to try to live with it for another year while I tried the rest of the treatments available.
    Now I have tried all those and gone back they have almost already turned me down. To make matters worse about 2 months ago my doctor offerred me Morphine but said to think about it. I decided I would go on it so went back today and he just said to up the dose of what I'm already taking. If that could be done why didn't he do that when he first offerred me Morphine? I'm so at a loss :-(

    Claire x
  • I hope the pain meds help even thought it isn't morphine. I think I would get a second opinion there if the increase doesn't work. I had the same thing happen I was told the Dr. would try me on Fentanyl then changed her mind. Terrible. But my first pain meds were one month of percocet then the second month was MS Contin and had to return frequently to get an increase but now I'm on Oxycontin. So I would let the PM Dr. know the meds only last so long and not working well and maybe he'll change you to morphine. I wish we didn't have to go through so much but seems we have to struggle for every little thing to relieve our pain. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • I know CHarry it sometimes seems so unfair what we have to go through and the very little help we get from apparently 'qualified' doctors! I have upped the dose today and will up it again in two weeks. I very much doubt they'll help though as had very little benefit when I was first put on them. If they don't help much within the two weeks then I will go back to docs and put foot down that I want morphine and thats the end of it. I can't keep struggling with this much pain.
    I've got an appointment with the surgeon tomoro to discuss the results of my recent MRI so will have to wait and see what he says. I don't hold out much hope after last appointment tho but at least this time I am prepared for the dissapointment and will endeavour to get a 2nd opinion.

    Sorry if I'm droning on a bit just having a real bad time of it recently.

    Thanks for listening,

    Claire x
  • Sorry that you are having these troubles. I hope that you have a better appointment with the surgeon tomorrow.

    What level are your bulging and heniated discs?
    When was your last MRI before this one?

    I know that I have had a different opinion from one doctor, who was also only concerned with my leg. I have numbness and tingling in my foot and pain down the upper part of thigh, but not the shooting pain to foot. He seemed only concerned about my leg.
    Where another surgeon has stated that I def. need a fusion to help, this one did not think that it would help my back pain, only leg pain. So confusing.

    Did you get any relief from upping the medication that you are on?

    Wishing you all the best and hope that you can get some answers and pain relief.

    I think that it is a great idea as well to get a second or even third opinion.

    >:D< Karen
    >:D< >:-D< : Karen
    L3-S1 herniation and bulges, stenosis, mod facet,ddd,impinged nerves,coccydinia
    discectomy/lami July 2011-unsuccessful
    adr L5-S1 Feb 2012
  • I agree, if you're not happy with your next appointment with your surgeon, get a 2nd opinion if you can.

    Over the years, I had different surgeons give me differing advice. It is very confusing. On the whole though, as I understand it, some surgeons would refrain from recommending surgery if ONLY your back was causing the pain. I may be wrong, but I believe this is because there is no guarantee that fusions (or whatever) will completely take back pain away, BUT they have been very successful in reducing leg pain/symptoms. Sometimes, as a result, the back pain has improved also, but one surgeon told me that this is sometimes considered a bonus. Obviously this isn't the case for a lot of back pain because there are so many different reasons why you could be getting back pain symptoms. I mention this because, although I've had fusion surgery, I'm getting pain from the sacroiliac joint now. I don't know if this is as a result of the fusion surgery itself or whether it was there before the surgery.

    Have you had a discogram to find out EXACTLY where your back pain is coming from? I had to have this test as the surgeon could/would not proceed any further without the results. As it turned out, the discogram confirmed that 2 of my discs were pain generators, hence, the recommendation for surgery. The fact that I am still experiencing back pain may be from something unrelated - I'm hoping the injections I'm booked in for soon will sort it all out.

    I hope your surgeon can answer all your questions and that your increased pain medication has taken the edge off your back pain. Let us know how you get on OK?
    2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!
  • Hi Sue,
    Had a less than satisfactory appointment with the surgeon on Wednesday. He told me that because the DDD is caused by a lack of essential chemicals in the discs( didn't know this was the reason. I'm assuming it's true?). So even with surgery all my other discs would be affected regardless. He also said that I have another disc(seperate from the first three) somewhere in the thoracic area that is already degenerating. He said that because it is a 3 level disc problem that surgery would stop too much movement in my back and cause more problems with my other discs.

    This I completely understand but he just isn't helpful at all. When I first got there he said 'so whos given you this then? seen as is genetic it's either your mum or dad'! I mean what proffessional puts blame on a member of the patients family?! Then later on he added 'obviously other members of your family have dealt with it before you so you'll be able to as well.' and when I said 'will it be there forever?' he said ' well yeah but it won't put you in a wheelchair.'

    Then he pretty much told me to just go! He's referring me back to pain management but I've already done this and exhausted all the things they gave me to do.

    I'm extremely confused and devastated now but going back to the doctors today to ask for a 2nd opinion.I've never had a discogram but on the MRI the surgeon said that L3-L5 are bulging and herniated so I assume that's what's causing the pain? I will ask the doctor about the discogram today and see what he suggests.

    Will let you know what help the doc offers(although I've lost a lot of confidence in them to be honest)
    Thank you all for your kind words and help, makes me feel a little bit better knowing I can talk to others that understand.

    Claire x
  • You need another Dr not associated with your present one. There is bad bedside manner, which can be acceptable if the Dr is good, but what you describe is down right unprofessional.
    You do have to advocate for your own health care. I went to 4 different surgeons before I had a lamenectomy and as soon as the surgery was done, he wanted no more to do with me and told me to go to pain management. I finally have a Dr I can communicate with, he is currently recommending against surgery in my neck, would be a 3 level fusion, because less than 50% chance it would help with the pain and would decrease neck function/movement.
    He is willing to do lumbar fusion when the foraminal injections stop working. He said he can guarantee pain relief on lumbar because the injections work.
    I have had many different opinions on what is operable and what is not. I think sometimes for the surgeons it's a guessing game because even with the large amount of training they have had each human body is different and what works for one when it comes to the spine and nerves may not work for the next one.
    I had never heard that DDD was caused by lack of essential chemicals, if that were the case I think someone would get rich selling supplements.
    Good luck Claire I'll say a prayer you find some answers.
    laminectomy c4/c5 2008, ACDF c4-c7 Jan 20 2014 sched
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