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Failed Surgery - what next?


I've joined this forum on behalf of my wife who has endured about 10 years of nerve pain with no end in sight. She had a pinched nerve at C5/C6 and has had two different surgery's to relieve the restriction. The first surgery (don't remember the name) went in through the back of the neck, the second through the front. The neurosurgeon at the time said the success rate of each surgery was somewhere around 80%.
Sadly, she was in the unlucky 20% and still has to take 12x300mg of Gabapentin/day to numb the pain. The Doctor said that there is nothing more he can do. She had the last surgery about 5 yr ago. We are hoping that over time, some new procedure will be developed for the unlucky 20% for which the surgery was unsuccessful.
Has anyone heard of any new developments in this regard or any other options?



  • Hello Gordy

    I too have had two different fusions fail, one fused about 50% and the other there was no fusion at all. I did have one successful fusion and it was the first one done.

    I haven't found any particularly new procedures, doctors are still doing fusions the same as far as I know. I had my first one 10 years ago as well, one in 08 and then the last one in 2010. I am now in the situation that my new doctor want's to do a new fusion from c2-t2, which would be my 4th fusion.

    At any rate, she might benefit from a Pain Management Specialist. She can be treated with pain medication, sometimes steroid injections or nerve blocks can help. There are also devices such as TENS unit's that help distract from the pain. I have found that Lidoderm Patches have been helpful but are quite expensive.

    There is also the option of Nerve Stimulator which implanted into the spine in the area that is bothersome. It sends out stimulation signals intermittently. I've been told by others it does feel like a TENS unit (which sends little shocks to the area) but from the inside.

    There are other medications other than Gabapentin that can be tried, especially if she's been on it a long time. After time our bodies become tolerant or adjusted to medication so that it is no longer effective. This would be the case where a Pain Management Specialist would be beneficial to her.

    I would also suggest she see a different doctor and get a current CT and MRI to see if there are other structural changes such as new herniation's or issues that may be causing additional pain. Surgery might be a last ditch option depending how things look.

    Best of Luck!
  • I would go find the best surgeon I could find and get an opinion (or two). There can be other opinions about surgery or what else to do besides surgery for some relief.
    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • RickilalasRRickilalas Posts: 559
    edited 06/06/2013 - 9:07 PM
    Look for the best surgeons located in the best hospitals doing the most spine surgeries.
    Your insurance may have a link showing how many of the exact surgeries they do and the turn out plus the problems after surgery.
    This is very important to know. One doctor with a lot of complications is this surgery would be off my list.

    Good luck
  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    I am sure that you will find your time on Spine-Health very rewarding. This site is a powerful and integrated system that is dynamic and continues to grow.
    Here are just some of the highlights:

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    - Under the Resource tab, there is a section Doctor Advice Health Center which can be invaluable.

    - As a bonus, Spine-Health provides these patient forums. Here is where you can meet thousands of other people who understand and can relate to your situation. You will soon become part of the Spiney family who provide comfort and the advantages of a Support System. You are now part of this family that is approximately 20,600 International members and growing daily.

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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Hi Gordy,

    I think your saying that your wife's surgery itself was successful in that she fused, but she still has the pain? The odds the surgeon gave you sound about right, and yes you are one of the unlucky ones as I am. As to the types of surgery she had one would more than likely be a ACDF and the other sounds like they did fromonatomies, for the posterior. The others have given you good sound advice, as to what you can do. I do second that you seek another opinion. Sometimes just a fresh set of eyes gives light to what could be the problem. Of course the other is she has permanent nerve damage, which unfortunately there is no surgery for at the time, but getting into pain management would be the best course of action. Sometimes medications like a muscle relaxer can help take the additional stress off the already damaged nerve. Opiods are another choice to help. I have heard many say they won't help, but that is not true, trust me I have nerve damage and they do help. She may not be a candidate for a spinal stimulator as when it comes to necks they get a little more tricker, but then she might. In addition there is a medication that just helps nerves but has to be delivered through a device called a pain pump.

    Hopefully all of this helps you to help her. But she doesn't have to settle with the pain she is living in. Look around the forums and possible she can become a member. She is lucky to have you helping her as to many have spouses whom don't understand the pain they are in. Good luck and if you do find something that helps please do share with the rest of us.
  • gordybggordyb Posts: 2
    edited 06/06/2013 - 7:57 AM
    Thanks a million all of you for your comments. Truly appreciated. Will take all you have suggested into consideration. Surely something will help.

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