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Edema after Discectomy

I had a microdiscectomy at L5S1 in March. I was recovering nicely until about 2 months ago when I started having back pain again. They did an MRI and told me that I had a bulging disc at L4 of little concern, L5 was definitely narrower than it was before the surgery, and the vertebrae around L5 had (intraneural?) edema. The edema is what they say is causing the new bout of back pain. I haven't really been able to find much about it on the internet. On the MRI, it appears as a giant chunk of white on the vertebrae above L5.

Does anyone know the prognosis for this? Is it permanent? What causes it? When the doctor was telling me about it, it sounded like I was doomed to this back pain forever, but don't other types of edemas typically heal?

Also, I have periodic (3/wk) whole leg muscle spasms, but only at night. It gets worse if I drop my neurontin down. They think this is atypical for back injuries, but I wasn't having them before the surgery. Does anyone know what causes it and how I can stop them?

Any help is greatly appreciated.


  • airborne72airborne72 Posts: 245
    edited 10/23/2012 - 4:52 AM

    Welcome to the Spine Health Forum. Unfortunately, back pain is typically what brings people to this forum.

    I had a two level fusion (L4-S1) in January 2011. My first post surgery MRI in April 2011 showed an endema (that big white spot that you described) and the surgeon said they were common and should be no cause for concern and that it would dissipate on its own. I have had two additional MRI's since then and the endema is still there. Incidentally, so is my pain.

    If a surgeon does something for your endema, then please share the experience with the forum as there are more than just me walking (slowing and hunched over) around with post surgery endemas. This could be the source of my constant and increasing pain level.

  • Thanks for the info! I haven't found much on edemas but I suspect that if I can't reduce the stress to my spine it will just stay there. I'll post if I find anything that works. I did invest in an inversion table but it hasn't arrived yet. Also, they gave me oral steroids which has wiped out the pain almost overnight, but I suspect it will come back after the pack runs out. The next step was then steroid injections. I don't like that sound of that, but I'll try it if I have to.

    My pain is like a burning pain right in the center of my back. It does make me stiff especially when I go from sitting to standing but it's not all the time which is good and also bad because I never know what I can and can't do. I can walk fine, but standing still especially in the morning is horrible. Anyway, I was able to combat the stiffness some by laying on my stomach a couple times a day. That lets gravity straighten out the hips. I'm obviously not a doctor, so this is just personal experience talking, but if you can lay on your stomach, you might try doing it more and see if you get straighter.

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