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Choosing a surgeon, need help....

TrixieMamaTTrixieMama Posts: 64
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:56 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello my friends!

It has been way too long since I have posted here. Life has been crazy and chaotic and the pain has gotten the best of me the past 10 months i've been off. Since my last post I saw the state assigned AME surgeon who I really liked and now I am having trouble choosing which surgeon I want to have do my 360 degree single level, l4/l5 fusion for workers comp.

My first surgeon I have been with for the majority of my injury. He is the work assigned surgeon. I had a transfer of care briefly once I retained counsel but the surgeon they sent me too had problems with my attorneys office and his staff was slow, it took over 2 months to get me a cane! Needless to say, I went back to my original work assigned surgeon. I like him, we get along well and have built up a good relationship over the course of 7 or 8 months. He wants to do a 360 degree fusion. One surgery, 2-3 hours in length with a 1-2 day hospital stay and only expects me to be off 3-4 months max. My concerns with this doctor are that he IS the work assigned/insurance assigned doctor, I didn't choose him. He insists on having me take Ultram despite the fact it doesn't work for me, he won't prescribe me anything stronger. The other doctor had me on Norco but he refused to refill the RX. I also told him I am really stressed out and could benefit form something to help me relax and sleep as i'm only sleeping 2-3 hours a night. He refused and said he didn't want me to become addicted and if he prescribed a pain killer, i'd be addicted by the time I recovered from surgery.

Now, fast forward to the state assigned surgeon AME doctor. He also wants to do a 360 fusion, single level l4/l5 in two parts, 3 weeks apart at Pacific Hospital in Long Beach. He said the first surgery ALIF would have a 2-3 hospital stay and the second, the PLIF would have a 3-4 stay. He likes to break the surgeries up into two because each surgery averages 4-6 hours and he feels it's better for the heart, lungs and kidneys to not be under anesthesia for 8-12 hours in one sitting. I am a nurse and appreciate this fact, he is looking at my body as a whole, not just my back. He also said because of the work I do he anticipates a MINIMUM of 6 months off post surgery. He was very personable and I like his bedside manner. He saw that I was depressed and even went so far as to hug me while I cried. He also said if I need anything, to call him anytime.

No my dilemma is choosing a surgeon. My attorney said I have the right to have either surgeon do the fusion. While I have built up a relationship with my first doctor, I am concerned about his lack of concern in treating my stress symptoms, insomnia and unwillingness to give me anything other than Tramadol (he just took me off Norco cold turkey and put me on Ultracet 37.5, doesn't do a thing for the pain). He also reduced my soma from BID to once a day. My second concern is that since he is working for the insurance company and my employer, I worry that he may try to rush me back to work or give me a low rating since he works for them. while these concerns may not amount to anything, I believe they are worth considering. I don't want to get screwed basically.

If anyone can help offer some advice I would appreciate it. I have to have the surgery, my spondy has progressed and now 10 months post accident I have developed the start of spondy at l5/s1. Neither surgeon wants to treat that right now though because they said my success would drop dramatically and it's not worth taking the chance.

I just need some help figuring out which one to go with. They are both competent surgeons with great personalities, I just am concerned about the first ones affiliation with my employer and lack of concern with the problems I listed above.

Thank you for your help. Surgery will likely be in the next couple of weeks once I decide who I want to do the surgery. At this point, i'm so ready for this nightmare to be over. I plan on frequenting the boards more, life just got really complicated after the fusion denial. Trying to get through this as a single parent raising two little ones has taken a toll.

Thank you again and blessings to you all.



  • Maybe go see a psychiatrist and get put on cymbalta which helps with sleep and pain and also go to GP or pm doc who will give you meeds to make you more comfortable. Just a thought, hope it is helpful...lyrica good for nerve pain, also neurontin
  • I would look into the track record of the second surgeon. If he is good at his trade, then I would personally go with him.

    There's no doubt that a surgeon's skills at the table are important, but I believe post op care is pretty essential. It sounds like the new surgeon treats you more like a human than a case.

    The recovery time for a fusion is long and, as with any surgery, a bit unpredictable. I think it's invaluable to have choose a surgeon with whom you have a good rapport.
  • Thank you both for your help and suggestions. I decided to go with the state doctor and now just need to work out the kinks with my attorney. I sent her a long email and outlined everything today so she said she will speak to me in more detail after she reviews my case again.

    Thank you both again for taking the time to respond, I greatly appreciate it!
  • Kimberly- Great news that you have picked your surgeon. I am amazed at his lack of narcotics for you. Did he suggest at any time that you go to PM?

    Also on the not sleeping thing- can you discuss with you PCP? There are several meds that can be used to help you fall asleep/stay asleep.

    I am taking Ambien it helps me fall asleep (not sleeping well either) if I can get 5-6 hours in a night it is a good night. I usually fall asleep and wake up in 45 minutes/re-posistion fall back asleep, reposition etc it goes on all night due to pain.

    Good luck- Julie

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