After a long deliberation and several opinions and increasing symptoms and conservative treatments, I've decided to have a microdiscectomy on L4.
I had a microdiscectomy on L5/S1 in 2005, almost 8 years ago to the day. That surgery fixed my back pain but due to "complications" during the surgery my sciatic nerve was damaged and I was left with permanent numbness from my butt down to my toes, all along the nerve. Needless to say, this was a devastating result and it took me years to get over it. It affected everything from my job (which is very physical and thus it is a challenge to walk with a limp) to my self confidence to my relationships. It was quite a blow. I know many people here on the boards have been dealing with worse, and I'm grateful that I have moved on, but it is not something I want to revisit.
So now that it is time again for surgery, I am quite nervous. I worry that I am pre-disposed to nerve damage when the surgeon is in there digging around and moving nerves and muscle. I want a surgeon who is hyper-focused on my specific conditions and who has that magic combination of intuition and skill. All surgeons are board-certified and have completed fellowships.
I have met with three surgeons here in Los Angeles:
Surgeon #1 -- he performed my first surgery. He is a phenomenal surgeon; typically in the top 25 in the country. He has operated on ex-Presidents and athletes. He was Chief of Spinal Surgery at his hospital by his mid-30's. I went in to the operation with the fullest confidence and limped out wondering what the F happened. And I never really got an answer except that "wow...that's surprising and very rare." Even when I meet with him now he will not quite acknowledge that I have this issue and he certainly never does anything to assuage my fears. He operates at UCLA.
Surgeon #2 -- he is extremely compassionate and aware of my particular situation. He has mentioned a few times that his goal would be to get in and out with minimal damage (I know this is everyone's goal; I just like that he seems aware that I have this issue). He had performed thousands of microd's and has a private practice. He takes a neurological approach to the problem and believes in a mind/body program to recover quicker from surgery. I believe in this as well. He has high ratings on the health sites but I have not found specific reviews from patients who have had my surgery. He operates at St. John's, Marina del Rey, or DISC Spine Center.
Surgeon #3 -- another excellent surgeon, who was recruited for Cedar-Sinai because of his "unparalleled skill." He has operated on Royals (not that that matters) and published 22 peer-reviewed articles on spine surgery, as well as an actual textbook. He has a fantastic reputation and performs 250-300 surgeries per year. Had I not had such a bad experience on the first round I would have jumped at the chance to have him operate on me. But now I am skeptical. He did not seem as intuitive as Surgeon #2. I felt a bit like I was at the car mechanic's and that he wasn't considering the big picture but rather going with what seemed like the most obvious broken part without thinking of the whole engine. He operates at Cedar-Sinai, St. John's, Marina del Rey, or private centers.
Originally I felt Surgeon #2 was a no-brainer, but it scares me that I can't find any first-person accounts from people who have actually been operated on by him. Surgeons 1 & 3 have a mixed bag of negative and positive reviews, with most negative accounts being from people who had insurance issues or felt they were "cold."
What would you do????