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Finger numbness - should I go for surgery?


I recently experienced numbness in right hand index and middle finger and went for MRI. Results showed moderate disc degeneration at c5-6 and osteophyte formation.

Went to a neurologist and he tested my reflexes. Test showed that my problem was at c7 and not what the MRI indicated.

The neurologist says that I should only consider surgery when I experience weakness or unbearable pain. This is contrary to what my orthopaedic surgeon who is recommending surgery.

Am a bit worried now that after 3 weeks of physiotherapy, there isn't much improvement in the numbness. Other than this numbness, the pain is bearable.

Asking for advice for those who have done surgery:-

1. Should I just go ahead for surgery?

2. Why is MRI showing different diagnosis than the neurologist examination? Can MRI be wrong and if the surgeon operated on the wrong level, then wouldn't the patient be taking a big risk?

Any advice is appreciated.



  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,859
    edited 08/27/2013 - 6:32 AM
    I would recommend seeking a third opinion. Each of your doctors may be 100% correct in their rationale and thought process, but its always good to know that you have at least two medical professionals agreeing with your condition and what should be done.

    Personally, I would never go ahead and have surgery until I have thoroughly exhausted all conservative treatments. There are so many different ones to try and some again and again. I've had 7 spinal surgeries , 3 joint replacement surgeries, 1 coming up, so I can speak from experience..... IF you Dont have to have the surgery, Hold off until you can not.

    Its not always the MRI diagnostic that could vary, but as with any human, the review and analysis by one professional may differ from another. There are other diagnostic tests that can be used to help pinpoint exactly where your problem is.

    Since you are concerned about the two opinions, and you should be, I would ask each of them to explain in detail why they identified one level and what their recommendations are and why.

    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • mbridgemanmmbridgeman Posts: 20
    edited 08/27/2013 - 3:57 PM
    I have only seen a neurosurgeon. The initial read on my MRI was a large osteophyte impinging on a nerve but the NS said I had disc herniation and it's compressing my spinal cord. I have the same symptoms as you, the tingling and numbness...no pain really, which my NS could not believe. I am scheduled for surgery Oct 9 and the main reason is, the fact that I have no protective fluid around my spinal cord in that area terrifies me and I don't want to have to bubble wrap myself (I'd probably pop all the bubbles anyway. haha). My NS said that if i were to get hit in the head, fall and hit my head or am in a car accident , it could be "disasterous".
    I think a 3rd opinion might give you some peace of mind. Let me know how it turns out!
    Michelle :)
  • lmhdexllmhdex Posts: 8
    edited 08/28/2013 - 1:40 AM
    Thank you guys for your advice.

    What worries me now is the permanent numbness in my fingers which have not improved much after 6 sessions of physio.

    My physiotherapist tells me that in some cases, the numbness doesn't go away and that as long as I don't feel pain or weakness, I should just carry on with my life and suck it up.

    I saw another orthopaedic surgeon and he says my case is not a medical emergency and leaves it up to me to decide if I want to go under the knife.

    I'm just worried that the longer I delay surgery, there's a risk my finger numbness may never see any chance of getting better or worse still, if my condition deteriorates to permanent nerve damage, then no amount of surgery is going to help?

    All these worrying is getting me down and I sometimes can't function normally at work.......sigh

  • Surgery on my neck may not be sucsseful. My fingers get numb too but intermittently. I can't remember all that was wrong with just my neck. The easy part was I have 2 good bones. But am

    Also developing RA in the same fingers so I get confused on what is causing pain...I hope I don't ever have do surgery.Even for my back.

    The DO thought I do very well with fusion. My pain mgmt doc does not recommend it. I will stress bout it when I get desparate. It is a life changing decision.
  • I think it depends on whether a couple of numb fingers but no pain is worth the risks associated with the surgery. Also what kind of surgery is recommended? If it's minimally invasive and minimum risk, maybe you should do it. If it's a laminectomy and fusion like mine, I wouldn't do it cuz there are a jillion symptoms you could have but don't, and numb fingers are "good," and "worry-free," by comparison. It also depends on how much it affects your ability to do things, and what is causing the problem. Your neck contains lots of structures that can be harmed due to surgery. They are more important than a couple of numb fingers. Some surgeons leave huge scars, too, tho mine didn't .
  • rockfish2013rrockfish2013 Posts: 12
    edited 09/04/2013 - 2:57 AM
    I have had probably every symptom that can be caused by degenerative disc disease with central canal stenosis and foraminal stenosis. Numb fingers are virtually the least worrisome symptom of all, unless the numbness spreads to your whole arm like mine has done, at times. But I doubt that will happen. I think you'd have a longer list of symptoms, before that would happen. During prolonged times of my own finger numbness, it has sometimes taken 6 months, but the numbness eventually went away or became intermittent, rather than constant. I personally doubt that physical therapy helps with it. If you go that route, make sure it's neck therapy, not hand therapy. But it's probably better just to rest and wait for the nerve inflammation to subside, as this is a sign of nerve compresion or inflammation.
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