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What happens to the degenerated disc?

What happens to the disc if not taken out in a posterior fusion? MRIs and CT scans show my spine was fused in a collapse position and the disc not taken out.
The surgery never helped and after five years of working in really bad pain I hurt myself at work. I went to the doctor and got CT scans that show bones starting to grow where the disc was. Some doctors say that it turns into bone,and some doctors say that the disc never turns into bone and never fuses.
So my question again is, what happens to the collapsed and degenerated disc if not taken out, and the proper inter-body fusion was not done?


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
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  • SarahLindeauSarahLindeau Posts: 767
    edited 01/26/2014 - 4:54 PM

    My neuro told me that the entire disc needs to be cleaned out or you risk a failed fusion. The disc material is not conducive to bone growth. Did you initially have a fusion done surgically and the surgeon missed removing part of the disc? My surgeon specifically suggested a 360 fusion in order to better visualize the disc and make sure it would be 100% removed before proceeding.
    2015: Thoracic protrusions C7-T1, T3-4, T6-8
    Dec'13: 360FusionL4-S1 w/bone graft
    2013: 3x2-level disc injections: 12mo surgery postponement
    Dec'12: DiscogramL4-S1
    Sep/Oct'12: Bi-lateral Rhizo AblationsL4- S1
  • He didn't attempt to take any of the disc out and I was very upset when I found out 5 years later! Not only that, he screwed the vertebrae in crooked with the left side completely on top of each other!
    I went to work a month and a half after the surgery in 2008. I started feeling pain again worse than before. I went to the doctor 4 times in 4 months and they took x-rays 2 of those times. He kept telling me it's fused and I told him I don't see it but okay your the doctor. He put me on pain meds 4x a day and I kept working for five years. I grow a 3 inch muscle spasm to help support my aching back until I finally hurt myself at work. I broke a piece of bone off the outside of the pedicle screws. I couldn't twist an inch without a lightning bolt shooting through my whole body once I lied down and standing and sitting were brutal.
    The comp doctors wouldn't take out the degenerated disc once we got my CT scans back. They said the surgeon didn't do the right surgery, and it wasn't their fault. I went back to the surgeon and he said there's was no evidence to show that what they did was wrong and he wouldn't do anything about it.
    After four months of arguing with doctors to try and fix me with no avail, my job finally put me on long-term disability thankfully.
    Now I'm trying to gather evidence for Medicare, hopefully I can get the degenerated disc taken out because I'm still in pain. I'm a young 42-year-old and can go back to work, but not when it feels like there's broken glass in between my vertebrae.
    I know there's a lot of people worse off than me, and I probably shouldn't be complaining when I see some of these x-rays.

    What about you Sarah, you just had a surgery...how did it go?
  • Yes, it is possible to do a fusion and leave the disc in place. They create a bridge between the lamina on the outside. An inter-body fusion is probably better but it depends on the doctor. My inter-body fusion failed at one of my levels but the bridge my doctor built held everything in place. That level was redone later and the best part was they were able to remove the hardware. Because the bridge was solid, I didn't need any hardware for the redo.

  • Tomyy,

    I have so much empathy for you- being caught between warring entities while all you do is suffer is maddening. I hope that they can stop pointing the finger at each other and just get you in the road to recovery. I can't believe you're in your 40's and being left to suffer in this way. You have a lot of life left to live and they should still be your best years.

    I had my fusion right before Christmas and so far, I think I'm doing pretty well. That said, I feel like I've plateaued right now and have been dealing with some pain again but I know it's because I'm overdoing it; something that is easy to do with two small children when the weekend rolls around.

    For you, I'd say honestly, try to keep your head up. Hopefully your care team can start looking forward and putting together a plan to try and get you to a better place. Now that you're on long term disability, maybe it will mean having another operation. If you are unhappy with your first surgeon, make sure you get a couple opinions from other neuros or pain management docs. Also, please be sure to take care of yourself mentally. The type of pain you are in is terrible and wreaks havoc on your mind as well as body. I have been managing my chronic pain depression for years with sertraline and Xanax. I have a wonderful GP who has been with me from the start and is supporting me through those times when it all gets too much to bear.

    I hope you have someone to turn to as well. Especially since no one knows when you'll be feeling better, physically.

    Can you tell me a little more about yourself? When you were working, what did you do? Have you got a family or children to take care of? How did you initially injure your back?

    Hang in there - hugs
    2015: Thoracic protrusions C7-T1, T3-4, T6-8
    Dec'13: 360FusionL4-S1 w/bone graft
    2013: 3x2-level disc injections: 12mo surgery postponement
    Dec'12: DiscogramL4-S1
    Sep/Oct'12: Bi-lateral Rhizo AblationsL4- S1
  • That's what I had done, a laminectomy. I believe a laminectomy is done for people that have a bulging or herniated disc that pinch on the nerve. I had a ruptured disc and it was collapsed on the left side. I kept telling the KP doctors that I don't have any sciatic or leg pain, the pain is all local to my lower back and my buttocks. The Nero nurse told me that the mild whitening on the endplates were due to rubbing on the rock hard disc that used to be cushy. Now the mild whitening turned to bone shards. There was no pinching on the nerves, they didn't show me any pinching on the nerves, so why did I get laminectomy and what happens to the disc now?

    I was a roofer for 17 years, I started young and we used to carry all the material up ourselves. I used to have to clean up piles and piles of shingle debris, throw it In garbage pails, heave it on your shoulder and throw it in the dumpster. I fell off a roof onto a pallet of shingles on my back, I broke both collarbones in BMX and mountain bike accidents, I was in a car accident where I got whiplash and broke my nose on the back of my girlfriends head who was sitting on my lap. My nose was almost touching my ear. I played the drums in a heavy metal band for 17 years, three nights a week for two hours. I was pretty rough on my body throughout the years.

    So is there any documentation that shows the disc doesn't turn to bone, and to get any relief the old degenerated disc needs to be taken out and morselized bone needs to be packed in the disk space?
  • Wow, that is some tough living. Definitely reach out to a get a second opinion. See a different doc.
    2015: Thoracic protrusions C7-T1, T3-4, T6-8
    Dec'13: 360FusionL4-S1 w/bone graft
    2013: 3x2-level disc injections: 12mo surgery postponement
    Dec'12: DiscogramL4-S1
    Sep/Oct'12: Bi-lateral Rhizo AblationsL4- S1
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