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22 y/o and recommended for lumbar and cervical surgery



  • I'm no expert, but I've had 2 surgeries myself. I'm 27 years old. I had issues with L2,L3,and L4. I've had a laminectomy and a spinal fusion (TLIF). I can tell you that smoking WILL speed up degeneration of your disks, as it reduces the amount of oxygen they receive. The disks in your spine are like cartilage, they have no blood vessels flowing through them. They rely on oxygen to be transferred from surrounding bone and tissues. When you smoke, you constrict you blood vessels and reduce the amount of blood flowing to your bones and tissue. That is why the doctor wants you to stop smoking, and it is very important for your spinal (and overall) health to stop. If the doctor mentioned you having slipping and disk/vertebrae movement then it does sound like you need surgery, probably a fusion. The first week after surgery is really hard, and pretty painful. In my own personal experience, I had horrible leg and hip pain due to my issues I had, and surgery completely corrected my pain. Granted, it's only been 3 weeks since my fusion surgery but all of my leg and hip pain is gone. The fact that this doctor is willing to do all of this work probono is amazing and you should not be afraid if you've done your homework on the doctor. Since you don't have insurance you don't really have the luxury of a second opinion, but obviously the guy isn't trying to milk you for your money and rush you in to surgery to make a quick buck.

    In short, I'd go for the surgery. AND QUIT SMOKING!
  • Please give yourself a break. You went from somebody who was having a number of confusing symptoms to sitting in front of a doctor who seemed to be telling you your life needed to change.

    Since we can't give medical advice, I would recommend the neurosurgeon's office and explain that you had your appointment with the neurosurgeon, but needed someone to talk you through what the issues were and what this surgery is all about. If possible, when you talk on the phone or have another appointment, bring someone with you. Have a list of questions, and your support person could help make sure all your questions are answered and take notes for review later.

    Before my surgeries the person who helped me understand the procedures and what to expect before and after was the surgeon's nurse practitioner. I hope maybe your doctor has someone similar.

    I've had some of the same symptoms as you, but not like the combination you've had. I'm sorry if I sound like your Mom, but I'm old enough to be. I have a 22 year old daughter with arthritis and fibromyalgia.

    When you talk to someone you could ask what costs would be, if any, for the hospital, surgery, etc.

    I hope at least you know that someone's listening at this difficult and confusing time.

    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • Niki,
    We hear this story often here, when my disabled son needed an operation the surgeon recorded the sessions and gave us a copy to listen when we were calmer and more relaxed, that was code for stopped crying and as Karen said, all this information at once is too much for anyone, you perhaps did not even hear some of the important information.
    Many people here have the same dilemma knowing when is the optimum time for invasive surgery and thinking of the consequences of delaying, pain does not discriminate through age, only you can decide what the next step should be, this is not a race, we all wanted to get better the most important thing is for you to make the right decision for you.

    You describe lots of confusing issues that do not seem to relate to you or your future, so you need some thinking time and be clear in your own mind, what is suggested and some alternatives. You are still at the diagnostic stage and need to write your questions down and get satisfactory answers that you understand and that relate to you.

    My own surgeon suggested that everything possible was done at each stage before we moved incrementally to the next one, higher up the order, toward invasive surgery if that was appropriate and the best possible option, based on current MRI and additional clinical evidence.

    Niki, I know you want all this just to go away and be back to normal and all surgery has some element of inherent risk involved, you could have another 70 years ahead of you, do all and everything possible to get some help and additional advice on your condition, you sound positive and will need that motivation in the future. Any surgery is a leap of faith into the unknown, many here are at this point also, deliberation the options and embracing the idea of a new beginning.

    Take care and good luck. 22, I have socks older than that........ it was a joke.


  • Thank you for taking the time to get through that long winded, emotion filled post. I've been researching and researching, looking for something that describes the bits and pieces of what I understood of him telling me...and I'm pretty sure spondylolisthesis hits the nail on the head.

    I was just so confused as to why surgery was recommended right out of the gate...and still worried as to what damage I could do if I didn't take advantage of this incredibly generous offer and the possible regret I could have later. I just can't find much information on what the consequences are of just managing it without surgery, I read much on the pros and cons of having it done, but none on not having it done...any input?
  • Thanks a ton for trying to help me out, I was afraid everyone was going to see how long my post was and skip it.

    That's my exact plan. I want to go back and either talk with him again or someone educated on the matter. As I mentioned above, I've concluded that spondylolisthesis is what he was talking about.He did write me a script for a custom fitted lumbar corset brace with the molded plastic piece, so I want to get that...but I still feel a little in the dark about what I mentioned to the comment above, about the pros and cons of not having the surgery.

    Unfortunately, being so young and not having family around to discuss this huge matter with makes it hard and I have to resort to anyone who's willing to lend an ear. It's just such a big decision for someone so young and otherwise pretty healthy.
  • Have no fear about the socks joke, it actually gave me a well needed chuckle. Though you're absolutely right, I missed a lot of what he said after "spinal fusion."

    And once I quit smoking, I hope to sit with him again and discuss this more, but after waiting 2 months to see him after my tests, I'm going to use the time to focus on quitting smoking. Either way, surgery or not, that's my next step. I lost my father last year to lung cancer and as if that wasn't enough motivation, this definitely hits it home for me.

    As I'm sure most of you know, neurologists can be quite intimidating and more technical then the average person would prefer, but as I told Karen, I have no one to talk to about this and just wanted some advice or personal accounts from people who have had this situation at a young age, with no trauma to account for the news.
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