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preparing for my appointment with the surgeon

omabluebirdoomabluebird Posts: 36
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:02 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am an active grandmother who will be 70 next month.
Back in February I did an initial appointment with the spine center at a nearby university. My leg and buttock pain had gotten lots worse in December after 2 epidurals failed to help. Epidurals have fairly well managed my pain for the last 3 years.

Since that time I have done everything on their list: ice, pt, water exercise, new MRI and am taking 1800 Mg of gabapentin a day. Everything helps but I still have annoying to severe pain.
A resident called me to say the "diagnostic committee" had reviewed my MRI results. I had thought I had stenosis and would need a lamenectomy. Wrong. He said the potential surgery would likely include a multilevel fusion etc etc.
My appointment is with the surgeon of my choice after research. I am inclined to go ahead and schedule surgery sometime this summer. I have read many reasons not to have this surgery. But I am in the education phase of preparation. I doubt waiting longer would help and I don't want to wait six months and still be in pain and get desperate to have surgery in the winter when I would not be able to walk outdoors.
I would love to have thoughts and support from this forum even though I expect most of you are lots younger than I am. Thanks



  • Omabluebird:

    I will be 61 in a few days. I have lived with back issues since 1978 and eventually submitted to a two level fusion in January 2011. The decision making process was agonizing and just added to the chronic back pain, so I identify with your current situation and question.

    I suspect that you will get several responses. My recommendations include reading as much as you can on this site, and elsewhere, so you will be an informed consumer.

    Make a detailed list of your questions of the surgeon prior to the appt and take it with you. Write down his/her responses. Also take a calendar to the appt and mark all of your significant events on that calendar so you can make wise decisions on the spot. If they recommend surgery, they will ask you to select a date at the conclusion of your appt. This is a tough decision emotionally, but it becomes easier if you have "your life" recorded on that calendar.

    For the most part I have never had a surgeon give me a recommendation. They always provided, in layman's terms, a diagnosis and then a prognosis. Each one told me that it was my decision and I would know when my quality of life had degenerated to the point that I needed surgical intervention. This always frustrated me because I wanted the assurance from a doctor about what to do. Now, I fully understand the logic behind their reserved recommendations. Whatever results from the surgery is what YOU must live with and if you don't fully accept responsibility for the decision then you become mentally twisted and blame the medical community for everything. That can significantly increase the physical/mental chronic pain. So, be prepared to leave the appt with a sense of "no guidance." I have felt that way several times.

    Do not discount the merit in seeking a second opinion after the initial appt. It's your body/life; it's a procedure to the surgeon. There's a big difference between the two.

    There are advantages and disadvantages to using a teaching hospital for major surgery. I say this with experience because I suffered/am suffering from a surgery (not spinal - cancerous prostate) conducted at a teaching hospital. Henceforth, I will always shy away from the teaching hospitals. Again, this underscores the importance of a second opinion.

    I spent 20 years in the Army and my mind/thought process was blueprinted during that time. So here is a succinct, militaristic categorization of what you face.

    1) Fact gathering/decision making phase (where you are right now).

    2) Execution phase (the surgery itself).

    3) Recovery phase (days/weeks/months/years post surgery).

    There is detailed and valuable information about each of these phases available on this forum (use the search icon) or post specific questions. You will probably wilt from information overload. You will probably feel very apprehensive based upon some input, yet feel very encouraged by other input. Take it all in and process it.

    I wish you luck and courage as you approach the challenges facing you.
  • Wow thank you for you lengthy reply. I seldom get any replies.
    I had to laugh as what the doctor I talked to on the phone said"bring your calendar when you come in"
    I live in a rural area and have chosen the doctor and hospital after quite a bit of experience at this hospital. This doctor has a great team and I get quick answers to my questions by phone or email. I have been pleased by their responsiveness.

    I have done so much study on this and will decide on getting a second opinion after I hear what they have to say today.
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