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Fusion? Laser surgery?

ScariSScari Posts: 7
edited 06/11/2012 - 9:02 AM in Lower Back Pain
I had surgery on my L5-S1 12 years ago. Seems it's back and has brought friends. I'm hunched over again, walking like I have a stick up my butt..with a cane, with my right sciatica zinging and my right calf muscle is not working. My Achilles reflex is gone and I don't have to tell anyone here of the pain.
I just saw someone last week and their impression of the MRI was a lot worse than the radiologist report. (In fact, I saw the tear at l4-l5 and so did the Doc, yet the radiologist didn't mention it.)
I'm deteriorating so fast and I'm afraid of permanent nerve damage. How long do I have before that happens?
I'm also worried that if they only, 'fix,' the herniation, won't the 2 disks above it continue to deteriorate and eventually herniate as well?
I feel like I'm shopping for a used car, with all the options out there, but this is serious back surgery.
I'm wondering if anyone has an opinion on fusion vs laser surgery? Has anyone had something similar and what did you end up doing? What were your results? thanks!

1. Small broad based right posterior disc protrusion at L5-S1 superimposed on concentric disc bulging at L5-S1
2. The disc protrusion at L5-S1 causes mild encroachment upon the right S1 nerve root within the right lateral recess.
3. Small posterior central disc protrusion superimposed on concentric disc bulging at L4-L5 with mild central canal stenosis at L4-L5.
4. Mild concentric disc bulging at L3-L4


  • Hi, I know exactly what you're going through. I started out with just degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis.

    When I had a bad sciatica attack 4 years ago from out of nowhere, probably did something wrong, but it was bad to where I had to drag my right leg and foot. I went to the doc and had the epidural injections x 4 and nothing worked. Finally I had surgery. It was supposed to be a short 3 hour surgery. It became a 5 1/2 hour surgery and 3 level fusion. L3-S1.

    I have permanent nerve damage to the right leg. That is why the doc said you need surgery to avoid further damage. It's been 4 years now and I had a slight fall, really don't know how it happened but I now have a large herniation at L2-3 and nerve damage on the left leg and as you well know.

    Pain, Pain, Pain. I don't know of any type of laser surgery for disc herniation. I've never read up on that. I go to the Ortho doc tomorrow with my list of questions about what surgery he'd like to do on L2-3. I've been told my the doctor that did my injections that I have a "crappy back" Nothing will change that.

    I'm 62 years old. I tell you, I'm afraid of any more surgery but I don't see anything else I can do. Just like you, you will eventually have to have surgery to remove the disc that's herniating and perhaps the fusion of all the levels like I had. It's a whopper recuperation. For me over a year with a walker. At least it was for me. I was so afraid I'd turn a certain way and loosen a screw. I have already gotten my walker so I guess I am resolved to have another surgery for L2-3. I hate to have to recover during summer but winter cold and bad backs don't play well together if you know what I mean.

    I wish I could say that having the surgery would help you 75% but as my doctor told me, it's different with each person as to how well they recover and how much relief they will get. I still have my hardware. I did not wish to have that removed. I don't see the use.
    Good Luck in whatever type of surgery you have. As I was told it's not if, it's when. Kinda a no win :situation. :)

    4 years post op L3-S1 laminectomy with fusion. Degenerative disc disease. Spinal stenosis. Herniation L2-3. L2-disc has shifted forward over the L3. Lower spine has scoliosis now and is bending to the side ( that's a new one)
  • Sorry to hear you went through all that. I'm trying to avoid the fusion, if at all possible. The more research I do, the more it seems I cannot avoid the fusion.
    This started with me when I was 21, when I rear ended my boyfriend-at the time. Then another car accident, at 24, a woman rear ended me, which ended up with me at 25, having a microdiscetomy at l5-s1.
    I'm 37 now and in the am-I'm dragging my right foot behind me as well, using a cane.
    I'm finding out now, that the first surgery wasn't a microdisctomy at all-It was a laminectomy! I was told at the time, that the surgery took twice as long as it was supposed to, but was never told the surgeon did a laminectomy. At the follow up appt with the doc, he told me he wanted to fuse me, back then. Still never told me he did a laminectomy! I was even billed for a microdisctomy.
    My recent ct scan and x-rays confirm the laminectomy. It's clear as day, I'm missing bone at L5-S1. Nothing I can do about it legally at this point. It's past the statute of limitations. I have more reason than one, not to trust Doctors.
    I have an appointment with a neurosurgeon on Tuesday, basically for a second opinion. (The first doc told me the neuro will want fusion.) Then, I have nerve testing on the 19th. I'm worried about waiting that long and nerve damage. I really don't want to lose bladder and bowel control.
    I don't know if I would even be a good candidate for laser surgery, with 3 bad discs. Of course these places are stating that I'm, 'perfect,' for the surgery. When did medical procedures become like shopping for a used car?
  • Ozone is being used for disc hernias,

    it is very safe and non invasive.
    Live to Pray
  • I have never heard of that. Have you had it done? Does it work? And if so, for how long? I have 3 bad discs. Would that even work for someone like me?
    I looked for a doctor under my health insurance and it seems like it's homeopathy and not covered. Do you know the average cost?
  • Ozone therapy is basically a injection, just done a little different and with different medication. Below is a description of it.

    "The action of ozone is due to the active oxygen atom liberated from breaking down of ozone molecule. When ozone is injected into the disc the active oxygen atom called the singlet oxygen or the free radicle attaches with the proteo-glycan bridges in the jelly-like material or nuceus pulposus. They are broken down and they no longer capable of holding water. As a result disc shrinks and mummified and there is decompression of nerve roots. It is almost equivalent to surgical discectomy and so the procedure is called ozone discectomy or ozonucleolysis. Besides, it has an anti-inflammatory action due to inhibitions of formation of inflammation producing substances and tissue oxygenation is increased due to increased 2,3 diphosphoglycerate level in the red blood cells. All this leads to decompression of nerve roots, decreased inflammation of nerve roots, increased oxygenation to the diseased tissue for repair work."

    Although some patients are not candidates those with active bleeding from any site, pregnancy, G6PD deficiency and active hyperthyroidism.

    One of the biggest issues with knowing the reliability of wether or not it will help is the fact that many whom have a herniated disc will get better over time. So the question is did the injection help or was it the fact the person just got better on their own? If you googled it, you will find many of the same responses saying just that. You are right that it is not being used in the US currently as a acceptable treatment, which doesn't mean it won't help you, as long as you have the cash to pay for the treatment.

    If your looking for something other than surgery, search alternative treatments for herniated disc, and you should get all of them that are available. Now if you could get it covered by your insurance it is worth a try and if it doesn't work, then you always still have the traditional treatments available to you.

  • Thanks. I looked it up yesterday. I don't think I would be able to have this, as I don't have a thyroid (cancer) and have a lot of endocrine issues. I cannot even get steroid shots, because if the cortisone. (Don't even get me started on endocrinologist and their ignorance.)

    These Doc's are pissing me off. I had an appointment for tomorrow for a 2nd opinion. I cancelled it after I found out that I would only be seeing the Doc's PA. The PA has to deem be worthy of seeing the surgeon, which is another office visit. Yet, I still have to pay for the, 'specialist.'
    This whole process is disgusting. I think these Doc's for get that they are D-O0C's, not G-O-D! They forget they are working for US, not the other way around.
    I know I have to have surgery. I need an unbiased opinion if anyone has had laser treatment for 3 bad discs, or if fusion is the only way.
    Thanks so much for the replies!
  • and it will take you a long time to recover ,i was told that the fusion was the GOLD STANDARD for back pain ..well its done nothing for me pain wise ..its just as bad as ever .but my spine it longer and straighter and its only been 4 months since i had ALIF .i am a slow to recover you may be different .good luck
    tony {UK}
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • Bachache99..so sorry to hear of your pain and unsuccessful surgeries.
    The more research I do, the more I'm seeing that a fusion is my only option. Since they took bone during the lamiectomy, it seems my spine is slowly collapsing. I don't see how they can fix 3 bad discs with laser disc surgery. I'm hoping I'm wrong.
  • I have an infection over my Stomach. My family Doctor told me for some surgery but I a afraid of it. Is it any how related with cancer.
  • (Elizabeth dear..I have no idea what you are talking about.)
    I just got off the phone with a surgeon who said he would give me an artificial disc at one level, fuse one level and do the laser repair of the bulging disc, at the 3rd level. 5 night hospital stay. Has anyone had this done, or know of anyone who has had this done? If so, what were the results? What is the best artificial disc replacement? Thanks
  • I have 3 bad levels too.. 1 doc wants fusion and others say i must wait for my symtoms to get worse... They were really bad for 4 months with left leg sciatic and mild right side... Anyways I look into laser surgery and went to a intro with LSI. It was explained to me they just go in there and cut here and there and all over where the can decompress the area... Then they suck all the stuff out.. Sorry for the lamen type terms.. My father had it done for his drop foot and he thinks it stop it from getting worse.. I say go for the LASER surgery FIRST if u can afford it. They want to charge me 18k for it.. FUsion is huge and though it helps a TON of people it has cause issues for some especially people like us UNDER 40 with a JACKED UP 3 LEVELS.. I am sorry!

    Please keep me posted!!
  • Sorry Dax to hear you are jacked up too.
    I'm interested to hear how your consult went with LSI. I have researched them a lot and decided to cancel my consult. after I found more than 15 lawsuits against them, plus many unhappy customers. I felt like I was being sold a surgery by a used car salesman. I think his name is Jason, but he was really pushy and got mad-via email, when I canceled my appointment. None of these laser places tell you that the procedure is NOT covered by insurance. Most insurance companies consider it, 'experimental.' I suggest you do more research on LSI, before you agree to let them do major surgery on you. Plus, they may say it's covered by insurance and have you pay up front. It's not until later, after you have given them the cash, that you find out your health insurance isn't covering the procedure. Also, be wary of Doctors who want to do surgery, solely based on an MRI. (I had one Doc who was calling me personally and relentlessly. He wanted to set a surgery date, based on my MRI, without ever meeting me...I think not!)
    I'm going with another Dr, who suggested laser as well, but after finding out it was 37,000 bucks...up front, of course, I decided on going with the fusion. Although, the Dr assured me that I would be fine for life, I am also worried about the laser surgery. I have bone missing from a prior lamenectomy and I'm convinced this is what caused my expanded spine problems. I have lived this twice now and don't ever want to go through this again.
    Good luck with everything. :)

    Oh and FYI about artificial discs; they have to go in through the abdomen and they can, 'pop,' out. Although, some Doctors do more than one-In the US, only 1 artificial disc is legally allowed to be put in.
  • I tried to post here yesterday, but for some reason it didn't appear, so if at first you don't succeed, try again.

    I was skeptical about laser until I encountered several people who had it done with great success. One that I know of was multi-level, so the number of levels is no barrier. I'm having it done as soon as I can cough up the facility fee, which my insurance doesn't cover.

    Best wishes with whatever treatment you choose to undergo.
  • I looked up a few articles about LSI's lawsuits. Seems they were slapped with 15 malpractice suits out of 7,500 surgeries performed between 2009 and 2011, and the article mentioned a greater incidence than other ambulatory surgery centers. Since spine surgery is riskier on the whole than other types of surgery, I wonder if those stats are really cause for concern. What is your take on that?
  • I hauled out my calculator and divided 15 (malpractice suits filed against LSI) by 7,500 (patients operated on at LSI during the two-year period). The result: 2%. I wonder how that compares with the incidence with respect to traditional spine surgery. Googling might produce some stats, so I'm going to try that.
  • Just tried Googling it. Nothing with a percentage came up. Do any of you know what the incidence is?
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