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Hello, I'm new here

need_new_hopenneed_new_hope Posts: 4
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:54 AM in New Member Introductions
Hello, I'm new here, and have a lot of questions.
I have been having lower back pain for quite a few years now and it is getting to the point where I am not comfortable sitting, standing, or even lying down. I am taking 6-8 Lortab (hydrocodone) 10-500 per day, 200 mg. Tramadol (1 per day) extended release, and Xanax (50 mg) 1 to 2 at night to sleep.

I am getting my pre op tests done now to have L5-S1 fusion. I have been out on short term disability through my job for the 2nd time now due to my back problems (I am a bus driver).

The first time I was out on this short term disability the first surgeon I saw told me I needed a discectomy(sp). I went for another opinion and the next guy was a complete jerk, dismissed my pain and told me to lose weight & excercise (this is not why I think he was a jerk, he made strange sexual comments to me in front of my wife)and go to PT.
I went to PT and it made my back hurt worse.

Tried to do everything I could to avoid surgery.....a few epidurals, branch blocks, facet injections. Went back to work for about a year, and I could not stand the pain or do my job in this condition.

I went out on disability this time and went to the first guy who said I needed a discectomy, figuring he would set me up for surgery. He ordered another MRI, and when he got it back he sent me for a discogram. The PA I spoke with at the place I was sent to get the discogram said "this is a torture procedure, you should get another opinion before you have this done".......so that's what I did. Now, the new guy is saying I need a fusion, not a discectomy. I am so frustrated right now, I don't know who I'm supposed to believe, and I'm running out of time to have surgery done and get back to work- we are only allowed 6 months to be out of work, and if we aren't ready to return we have to voluntarily resign for medical reasons.

I'm trying to give my whole scenario but this is becoming long winded/ in the last 2 MRI's I've had they have found a couple of syrinx's that weren't there 2 years ago, before having all of those injections. I can't help but think that these syrinx's were caused from all of the injections.

MRI results from 2 years ago:

The marrow signal is within normal limits. The disc hydration is decreased throughout the lumbar spine. Mild loss of disk space height seen at L1-L2.Other levels appear relatively preserved in height.Overall alignment is preserved.Mild straightening noted.No spondylolisthesis.

The conus terminates at L-1. Possible subtle cord signal change conus. Further assesment of the thoracic spine with and without contrast may be of use. The paravertebral soft tissues appear within normal limits.

L1-2 exhibits a mild diffuse bulge with small central disc herniation. Associated mild canal narrowing. Foramina are patent.

L2-3 exhibits a mild diffuse bulge with associated mild canal narrowing. Foramina appear patent.

L3-4 exhibits exhibits mild diffuse bulge with associated moderate canal narrowing.Approximately 9x16 mm. Formina appear patent. Mild facet hypertrophy.

L4-5 exhibits a mild to moderate diffuse bulge with associated moderate to severe canal narrowing. Approximately 9x13 mm. Associated broad based right lateral recess and forminal disc bulge with associated moderate right forminal narrowing. Mild left forminal narrowing. Mild facet hypertrophy.

L5-S1 exhibits a mild bulge with small central right paracentral component. Likely touches upon traversing right nerve root. Mild canal narrowing. Formina are patent.


1. Multilevel degenerative changes of the lumbar spine.

2. Greatest narrowing seen at l4-L5 and L3-L4

3. Right paracentral component at L5-S1 may touch upon traversing right nerve root.

4. Subtle cord signal change along the conus. Recommend thoracic spine MRI with and without contrast.

Whew !! Sorry.....

2nd MRI results are with the surgeon, I accidentally left them with him when I gave him my films........but basically more degeneration and the finding of a syrinx, that wasn't there before. He ordered another MRI of my mid back regarding the syrinx..........here's the results from that MRI:

Small syrinx within the distal cord at T12 redemonstrated. This has a maximum diameter of approximately 2mm. This extends over a length of 5 cm. This appears unchanged from the prior study (4-22-11) however was only partially imaged on the prior exam. The remainder of the cord unremarkable.

Minor early diffuse degenerative disc disease changes. No significant disc protrusion or spinal stenosis. There is a small synovial cyst or possibly a Tarlov cyst within the foramen on the left at T10-T11.

There is a upper thoracic dextroscoliosis. No vertebral body lesions detected.

I apologize about how long this is. I am scared to death of this fusion surgery and not feeling confident in all of the different opinions. I also feel I am being rushed into making a decision because of my job and insurance. I need advice, can anyone help? Thank you so much !!!!!


  • I want to give you a warm welcome to SH. Sorry that you need to be here.

    I was in the same boat as you, I have had differing opinions from surgeons regarding what type of surgery I should have (two said fusion, one said no, discectomy) I ended up having a discectomy/decompression 6 days ago. Time will tell if it was the right choice for me.

    Did your second opinion send you for a discogram? If you are totally unsure, could you maybe go for a third opinion? Were the doctors you saw spine fellowship trained orthopedic or nuerosurgeons?

    I wish you all the best with your decision. Please continue to come on here and let us know how you are doing.

    >: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
  • First let me say welcome to spine-health. Unfortunately what you are going through it is not that unusual, in that, you can get two completely different opinions. With that said, you need to decide on which surgeon you feel most comfortable with, and thought listened the best and took your unique situation into a account. The one thing you need to know is you can always do the discectomy and then if it your still having issues you can do a fusion. I have seen many members do the lessor of the two surgeries have it hold for sometime a few years or so and then need the fusion surgery. Also recovery from that surgery will be a much shorter time. Being you are up against a clock and if your not willing to loose your job it might be the way to go. The other thing you have to keep in mind is we have members whom have had fusion surgery which didn't stop the pain and now have what is termed as "failed back surgery syndrome). My point is these surgeries there is no guarantee they will relieve your pain.

    If you choose the discectomy and were able to return to work would it restart the clock so if you the issue reappeared you could then start another 6 months off? If I were in your shoes I would label a sheet of paper with each surgeon the proposed surgery they are going to do and then do a pro and con on the surgeries and surgeon. That might help it to make a more clear picture in your mind as to what is best for you. Sometimes in spine surgery more is not always better. Also keep in mind a fusion will forever change the mechanics of the spine. Once they fuse you won't have movement at that level. Now depending on how much pain you have and movement, it may not matter. I have friend whom is a 3 level fusion, but he couldn't move prior to the surgery so him loosing that ROM(range of motion), had no impact on him whatsoever, as he wasn't moving anyway.

    One thing I notice in your list of meds is you don't have a muscle relaxer? You might ask for a muscle relaxer as sometimes that can make it more bearable. WE often describe medicines as the combination. Meaning that it takes a lot of tuning to find the combination of medicine that will work best for you.

    Just thought I would stop by and welcome you to spine-health. If there is anything I can do for you don't hesitate to pm me. Take care and keep us posted.
  • Ouch2 and tamtam thank you so much for the responses, the support is a big help.

    Both surgeons I've seen are orthopedic surgeons, and from reading through this site I learned that it may be better to see a neurosurgeon.

    Due to me having an HMO instead of a PPO I only have these 3 surgeons that I can use......I screwed up by not getting the PPO !!!

    I would describe the place I'm dealing with almost like "a mill". The place is always packed with patients, and the doctors have a very limited amount of time they can spend with each patient. I made a complaint to my insurance about this, waiting to see what the outcome will be.

    On another note.......when I had the final MRI done regarding the syrinx, I declined the contrast, probably shouldn't have but I read alot of bad things about it prior to my MRI.The same day I had that MRI, I brought the films to the surgeon....he looked at the first one, pulled out the next one and said "let me check the one with contrast"...and before I could tell him I didn't have contrast he says "ok- nothings showing up with contrast, so it's not tumerous" !!!!

    I didn't mention that I didn't have contrast, I just sat there dumbfounded, thinking to myself " am I really going to have surgery by this guy?!"......maybe he was having a rough day?

    My wife is an RN, she was with me and was very suprised by this also.

    Being that the visit with him was only around 4 hours after having the MRI done, I was able to get the films only, had to wait a couple more days to get the written.......I'm sure he has them now :)

    Anyhow, thanks for listening and the warm welcome, you people are awesome !!!!!

    PS- Thanks for the tip on the muscle relaxers, have not tried them but at this point am willing to try anything to get rid of this pain. Thanks again !!!
  • ouch2 said:
    I want to give you a warm welcome to SH. Sorry that you need to be here.

    I was in the same boat as you, I have had differing opinions from surgeons regarding what type of surgery I should have (two said fusion, one said no, discectomy) I ended up having a discectomy/decompression 6 days ago. Time will tell if it was the right choice for me.

    Did your second opinion send you for a discogram? If you are totally unsure, could you maybe go for a third opinion? Were the doctors you saw spine fellowship trained orthopedic or nuerosurgeons?

    I wish you all the best with your decision. Please continue to come on here and let us know how you are doing.

    >:D< Karen
    Hi Karen-

    I apologize for being so self absorbed. I want to wish you a succesful and speedy recovery. You are very brave for having this done, I envy you !!! :)
    I hope you will end up pain free and having a normal life again.

    The second surgeon did say he would like to do a discogram but it's not exactly necesary, said instead of using dye in the discs would like to use a pain numbing medicine, with a follow up to let him know where it hurts once the medication wears off.

    I declined- I guess because I'm wondering if these "syrinx's" were caused by all of the injections?

    Anyways- just wanted to express my well wishes to you for a safe and speedy recovery :)
  • hi and welcome to the forum :H ! we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can. please have a good look around and make yourself at home in the forums! there are so many places to get your questions answered besides just the forums.. be sure and use all the sites avaliable.. check out the top of the page under "Treatments." and on the side under "Pain topics A-Z"....there are also videos on surgeries and procedures...good luck and stop by anytime!!! let us know how you are doing..Jenny :)
  • Thanks again for the warm welcome Jenny, it's nice to find a place where other people understand exactly what I'm going through. I hope to be able to be of help and support myself one day, the way you all do. This is a great site and I'm glad I stumbled upon it.

    Pandora-* not understanding your post? But anyhow, thanks.
  • Pandora is like an infomercial sham wow commercial".
    Flexicore ADR 2004 resulting nerve damage l4l5 Fusion 2006 same level, 2009 hardware removal with lami !
    2012 scs implant ,
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