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Surgery overseas for quicker treatment? Need advice

Hello everyone,

I'm from Sydney, Australia. My dad is in trouble with his back. We got our surgery date today from our surgeon. June 20 2014. Dad says he cannot wait that long. He wishes to go overseas (India) to get his surgery done. He seems to be out of hope and is maybe not thinking clearly. He is losing hope fast in the system. We have priv. health insurance but the out of pocket costs are nearly as much as the cost of travelling + surgery.

Some info:
    [*]Dad has been having severe lower back pain and leg issues since Feb 2014[*]Diagnosed as a bulging disc at L5-S1 amongst DDD and bilateral foraminal stenosis. [*]Our first surgeon did not give us too much confidence. Wasted time as a result. [*]Pain is getting unbearable for Dad. He can't move much either. Currently on ~125mg Lyrica and 100mg Tramadol per day (split up of course). Pain is mainly mechanical back pain (stiffness) and leg pain is mainly at the knees - burning. No numbness. [*]Surgery date came today as June 20 2014. Dad says he can't wait that long due to the pain and not seeing any results so far. Seems quite distressed and still in pain. I am trying to convince him to wait it out a bit longer over here in Sydney due to: better doctors(?), easier recovery, no travelling, faster follow ups, family support. Negative points being waiting for another 6 weeks. Dad is crying nearly every day due to inaction so far. The appointments and surgery dates are long. He is in pain. We might be able to increase the dose but I don't think our family doctor will allow it :-([strong]]What are your thoughts on travelling overseas for surgery vs having surgery here[/strong]? I am going to put down pros and cons for each and explain to him. It's his decision. He has family over there in India but I am truly scared of the outcome over there vs over here. If only we could somehow manage the pain here so he would feel better. I am trying to get an appointment with a pain management specialist.Wish me luck and I look forward to your replies. Thanks for reading.


  • I'm from the Gold Coast. Have you got the best surgeon in Sydney? I have had delibitating spine pain for 8 years and yes you do cry every day. Sydney has some great surgeons, probably the best in Australia. Try and get the best surgeon possible.

    I will PM you. Firstly ask your GP to up his painkillers. Your GP should do this if it's only for 6 weeks. He can change to something to like Oxycontin which may ease his pain a bit better. Also ask your GP for a muscle relaxant to combine with the pain killers - it worked for me - painkillers alone didn't touch my pain.

    You need to convince him to stay here. It's cleaner, much less chance of infection and he will need family support. Apart from that there are so many complications that can happen with spine surgery no medical insurer will take him on if he travels overseas with a preexisting condition. If he is that bad he would not even be thinking of a plane trip to India.

    I will PM you but he needs to lie down - use heat - get muscle relaxants as well as a painkiller like Oxycontin which may work better for him. Ask your GP they are allowed to prescribe it with a Govt authority.
  • I would try and get dad to hold on, I know its awful seeing a loved one in pain, but if there are any complications, dad would be better off in Sydney, This time last year I returned from bali, from a holiday, and that is when my lower back got worse, I cried everyday for eight months, my life was a world of pain.last December my surgeon booked my operation for late January, so I had to wait 5 weeks, I begged him to do the surgery before Xmas but he said no as they only had Skelton staff on and he wanted the best results for me.So I had to wait also.like your dad will have too. But it was worth it, now I am 4 months post from a fusion tlif l5 s1, and doing well. I am walking 3 hours a day and putting 110% into my recovery, I am from the gold coast, and if it was me I would wait. Surgeons are top notch in Sydney, Goodluck with whatever you decide to do
    Tlif L5S1 fusion on the 14th Jan 2014
  • jennypixie said:
    I would try and get dad to hold on, I know its awful seeing a loved one in pain, but if there are any complications, dad would be better off in Sydney, This time last year I returned from bali, from a holiday, and that is when my lower back got worse, I cried everyday for eight months, my life was a world of pain.last December my surgeon booked my operation for late January, so I had to wait 5 weeks,
    Thanks for the support and sharing your story Jen. I am glad you are recovering well. I hope to say that soon about my Dad as well. I seem to have calmed Dad down. We're going to try and get some muscle relaxants tomorrow and be positive until the day comes.

    Take care.
  • I agree about upping his pain meds. Tramadol is for minor pain. He should at least be on Norco or Percocet. Talk to his doctor and explain it just like you told us.
    Artificial disc at L5S1 for 10 years. Had 3 Level lumbar fusion and Laminectomy on Sept 27, 2013. It was an OLIF (Oblique Lumbar Interbody Fusion) with cages, BMP, rods & screws. Norco, Plaquenil
  • Hello all,

    GP has told us to stop Tramadol and continue with Lyrica and has prescribed us Endone (Oxycontin) 5mg, 3 times a day with paracetemol.

    Here is to hoping Dad feels a bit better. He is a bit scared about the addicting nature of it but I am comforting him by letting him not think too much about it and reminding him it's temporary.
  • There are some workers comp companies in the US that have begun sending patients to India for surgery because of how inexpensive the medical costs in India are. I'm sure their doctors are quite competent, but I'd be afraid of traveling back to my home country right after having a spinal procedure and of course, what to do if you have complications once you get home.

    I'm not sure how medical care in Australia, but something's going to have to change soon in the US or the system is going to fall apart.

    Best of luck to you and your dad. I hope he get's relief soon!

    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • SpaffySSpaffy Posts: 3
    edited 05/10/2014 - 11:11 PM
    Hi there

    I am from the UK but have been a long time resident in Thailand. I have just had a laminectomy decompression L4 -5 with fixation and fusion L4 -5 at the BNH hospital in Central Bangkok. I can say the level of service has been excellent both as an inpatient and outpatient. I started a blog to share my experience and your welcome to look at it here. http://myspineoperation.blogspot.com/ Initially I was scared and had some trepidation but to be honest after speaking to my mum the NHS in the UK didn't sound very pleasant. I had full health insurance and overall the experience has been first class.

    I hope your dad get help soon and feels better.

  • I also went to BNH, but it seemed to me the doctor was far, far too eager to push me towards the fusion option. He also got visibly agitated once I started asking technical questions about the procedure. I decided not to go ahead and in the end had a microdiscectomy performed at a well known hospital on Sukumvit. The sciatic pain totally resolved as did the lower back pain which had become simply debilitating. The lessons I take away from this are: 1. don't simply accept that you need fusion simply because a doctor insists you do (I clearly didn't need fusion, given the excellent results of the later surgery), and 2. do your own research. In terms of what I learned about my condition, the internet was far more informative and reliable than anything I heard from the doctors. There is third point I feel I should make: Don't assume that just because a hospital looks like the interior of a hotel for the rich and famous that the medical treatment you receive will be equally impressive.

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