I am currently a 21 year old male who suffers from scoliosis. I was diagnosed with scoliosis in Aug, 08 and it kept progressing to the point where I needed surgery. It reached 55* and I had scheduled a surgery for Dec. 28, 2009. Surgeon said everything went great and the curve is down to 15*. On Dec. 31, 2009, the surgeon told me something wasn’t seated properly or a bolt was loose, and he had to go back in to fix it. I was in much more pain after this surgery than the first.
On the road to recovery, the first 7 months were pretty good, considering I had spinal surgery recently. But after that, the pain I had before surgery started coming back and my spine began to become stiff and make cracking noises. I told my surgeon my problem and he kept saying “it’s normal” and it would heal within a year. The pain kept getting worse and a year post op came, and he didn’t know how to handle my pain, so he transferred me to a physiatrist. I got cortisone and lidocaine injections a few times and nothing helped with the pain. I got minor relief for 1-1.5 weeks, and it came right back.
I currently have 2 kinds of pains in my back. The first pain is spread out across my right side of the back, vertically. Best place to describe it, is along the rod, the muscle that goes along that area, is very stiff and has a trigger point at the bottom, right over the bottom right L3 bolt. What is interesting is that is the bolt that he had to “adjust” the second time opening me up. The other pain is along my fusion, specifically lumbar levels. I have an incredible amount of stiffness in this area. When I bend or twist, I randomly get stabbing/sharp pains. I can’t run, gym, or do any activities. Both pains together are making me have a hard time standing/walking/sitting.
I went to another surgeon to get a second opinion because I didn’t believe my primary surgeon knew how to deal with me whatsoever. Surgeon 2 saw the x-rays and said they looked fine. But pointed out my fusion from T9-L3 was stopped on a lumbar curve I had. He said that my pain might be coming from L4 because a lot of stress is being applied on it from holding up all the hardware. He said he wanted to inject cortisone between L3 and L4 and see if it would relieve my pain. He also recommended I get a CT scan to get a better view of what might be causing the pain.
I got a CT scan, and he told me that most likely, there is not enough bone on my L2-L3 level and he wants me to wear a SpinalPak II bone stimulator. I tried it for a month or so, and the pain was getting worse and I had no signs of improvement. I decided to check out another doctor’s opinion, who is also part of the SRS like surgeon 2. He was the most straightforward with answering my questions. He saw the CT scan and said there is absolutely no bone on the right side from L1-L3 and no bone on the left from L2-L3. He said it’s very rare to get any success from a bone stimulator this late after surgery, when I know I have a failed fusion. He also said as surgeon 2, the levels surgeon 1 picked were questionable seeing as how he stopped midway on the curve in my lumbar region. He also said the right L3 bolt doesn’t look like it’s seated properly. I felt the most comfortable with him because he was honest and wasn’t beating around the bush like most surgeons. He recommended that most likely I’ll need a new surgery that will replace all the old hardware and most likely go down to L4 and balance the spine more, while making me wear a stimulator right after surgery. He recommended me to get some quick novocain shots in my facet joints were my failed fusion is and where L4 is to see if that gives me temporary relief, and pinpoint the cause of my pain.
Surgeon 1 didn’t recommend any sort of test and told me to “live with the pain” at the age of 21, which I think is completely unacceptable. I will get 10 or even 20 opinions if I have to solve the problem with my back.
Now, I'm asking a few surgeons around the U.S. for opinions on my X-Rays and CT scans. Some are saying to just get the failed levels L1-L3 fused, some are saying it doesn't look balanced and there might be a lot of stress on L4, causing some of the pain. So they suggest getting an MRI to see if it's degenerating and if so, do a discogram to see if it's painful. I'm confused because I'm not sure what to do. Both having the huge surgery that replaces all the hardware and adding bone graft to fuse the failed fusion levels have risks.
What if I get the huge surgery, and something in the "removal" of the hardware gets damaged, or the new hardware isn't as stable or whatever, it's a huge surgery.
But then again, what if I do the small surgery to fuse the levels, and then later discover the stress on the L4-5 levels is increasing and I will need another surgery to extend down a level or two, I'll be screwed either way.
They recommended a TLIF for the second option btw. Below are all my x-rays and ct scans uploaded on a website. Does anyone have any ideas? What should I do? I can't handle the pain anymore, it's destroying me.