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Failed Discectomy

Hello all! I'm new here to the site. I had a discectomy for my L4-L5 disc back on 8-15-11, as it was severely herniated and pressing on my spinal cord. The pain went away for a good 4-5 months until just last week. I went to see my surgeon and he put me on prednisone and extra strength vicodin. I'm on day 1 of the steroids, and taking 2 ES vicodin every 6 hours. (Which barely relieves my leg pain.) I guess my question is, how many have had failed discectomies and how did you deal with it? I'm a single mom of an almost 3 year old little boy, and I feel like another surgery would be emotionally crushing. Thanks for letting me vent a bit. No one I know personally has been through this, so it's hard for them to understand.
DDD L4-5 & L5-S1 w/ herniation
Failed discectomy, 8-15-11
Discogram, 11-14-12
L4-S1 ALIF (2 plastic cages, 2 plates and 8 screws), 1-4-13
FBSS & SI joint dysfunction, 12-30-13
1 year post-op CT hardware scan & left SI joint injection, 1-17-14


  • Hi, sorry you are having some pain. It could be that as you increase you activity, you are getting a lot of inflammation. Prednisone is tough to be on but you'll know if it works. I hope it does.

    But, if not, I suspect your doctor might request a new MRI. If he doesn't, ask. He'll have to do with and without contrast b/c that helps them see the difference between a new herniation or scar tissue.

    It could be scar tissue causing your issue. A little scar tissue build up in the wrong place can cause increased pain.

    But, if it's another herniation, you take a deep breath and think about it and decide what next. I had that happen. Though, I knew something was wrong within 2 weeks of the surgery, my doctor wanted to wait it out so I didn't get the new MRI until 10 weeks post op (about month 3). From there, I wanted to do my homework. I found a new surgeon too who said there was no rush so give it time to prepare and think about the plan.

    I did have the revision. I had to be extra careful the 2nd time. I suspect that's where you are feeling overwhelmed b/c of your little one. But if it happens, you let folks know and welcome ANY help you can get. I had my mother-in-law come up for the 2nd surgery and we welcomed cooked meals from others (Even though I made many in advance and froze them). You learn that a dirty house is not a big deal. Gosh, I feel for you b/c I know back/leg pain and thought of another surgery is just draining on its own. Having the added worry of being a single mom I can imagine adds to the stress.

    But for now, take a deep breath and a day at a time. Keep us posted. I hope that the prednisone helps take the edge off.
  • one more thing...I did pretty good with the revision. I'm 2 years out. The only problems I'm having now is increased lower back pain. I'm told it's because I protected myself really well after the surgeries and my lower back muscles are very tight. I'm going to PT now to loosen them and get some mobility back but the leg pain is under control minus a few flare ups from time to time (if I drive too long without stopping to walk around).

    Just letting you know b/c I had the choice of revision or fusion. I went for the less invasive option and am pleased with the decision.
  • I'm sorry to hear you had the same problem. I had a MRI with contrast about 2-3 months out from my surgery that showed a tiny bit of scar tissue, but that the spinal cord was freed up. My main concern is that after that MRI, the pain subsided and I was without it for a while. I recently got back together with my boyfriend, and I'm not sure if it was that or the housecleaning I did a few weeks ago. I guess it really scared me when my surgeon flat out told me he's worried I re-herniated it. It's one thing to have a personal suspicion, but him confirming the thought was just scary.

    I suppose I need to take it a little at a time, huh? I'm very pleased with the doctor I have, and trust his judgment... I'm just worried. Luckily I do live with my folks and we have a roommate here who isn't working and can help.

    Thanks for the kind words and reassurance! This is so overwhelming right now, ya know? I'm only 26 and never thought I'd be facing TWO back surgeries!
    DDD L4-5 & L5-S1 w/ herniation
    Failed discectomy, 8-15-11
    Discogram, 11-14-12
    L4-S1 ALIF (2 plastic cages, 2 plates and 8 screws), 1-4-13
    FBSS & SI joint dysfunction, 12-30-13
    1 year post-op CT hardware scan & left SI joint injection, 1-17-14
  • The disc is made of tough, fibrous, outer covering called the annulus. Inside the disc is soft tissue; this area is called the nucleus.

    A herniation means the nucleus material protruded thru the annulus. During surgery, the surgeon may finish pulling the extruded nucleus material thru the rip. Now the rip can close.
    Scar tissue closes the rip.
    The kicker is that scar tissue closes the rip, but it is not as strong as the annulus material.

    If under the circumstances, the annulus material didn't contain the nucleus material in the first place, the scar tissue stands less chance under the same circumstances.

    So, people like us, with herniated discs, have to care for them accordingly as soon as we leave the operating room and for a long time after that. This means we cannot load them as we were once able to.

    Many times, a second microdiscectomy can still be performed on a same disc without too much consequence, so all hope is not lost.
    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • First thing, when a doctor tells you that you might have re-herniated a disc right after surgery, this is a comment made by someone trying to cover their own butt from malpractice. Most people that go through a surgery don't have the choice to do anything but lay around and take it easy.

    Second thing. Have patience and be real about your current situation. Decent shape means you need to get in better shape and stay in better shape. Your body will react to how you treat it. If you don't want to have lifelong pain with your body then quit being lazy and start treating your body better. This includes light exercise or heavy exercise and a balanced healthy diet. Put into your body what grows from the earth not what is processed by man. If you do this you will be and feel healthier and your body will have more to work with than what it has at its current state.

    Third, do your homework, research research research. There should be no reason why your surgeon is the one calling the shots. It is your body and your final decision. Doctors and surgeons are just like everybody else. If you want the best outcome choose a surgeon that lives and breathes their profession. For example if you were to have someone remodel your house you would want the contractor that takes great pride in his work and practices his trade every chance they get so that they are the best at what they do. This should go for the doctor. If you find a doctor that isn't going to seminars,learning new techniques,spending their own money on advanced or new technology materials,or learning as much as they can about their profession, then you don't have the right doctor and you will get sub par results.


    Regardless whether you believe in a god or anything else, mediatate or pray about your situation. Get you heart and mind on the same track for it is going to take alot from you to get through this. Even when you think you are in the clear, things can still come back after time or if you fall back into bad habits. Blessings to you all!
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