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Surgery with no pain - is it insane?

robotgooserrobotgoose Posts: 3
edited 07/21/2015 - 5:06 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Has anyone had, or heard of, someone having surgery on a large herniated disc just to prevent the possibility of cauda equina syndrome when no symptoms of it are currently present? Or had surgery for any reason OTHER than pain?? I have had multiple doctors tell me that I have no choice but to have surgery, but I can't bring myself to believe them since I am currently experiencing no pain. I have no function in some of the muscles of my hip and foot (which is what caused me to go to the doctors in the first place) but that has been stable (i.e., not deteriorating) and I can still walk with a little limp. I did have pain for a few weeks due to a misguided physical therapy experience, but this has since resolved back to no pain.

The only good reason I can think of to have surgery would be to avoid cauda equina syndrome, since the herniation has already gotten bigger once based on MRIs and one of my doctors said that if it gets worse again it could fill the spinal canal. However, I keep reading that you should only have surgery if you can't stand the pain etc. Which doesn't apply in this case since I don't have pain.

I am not asking for you to decide if I should have surgery. But I was wondering if anyone has had surgery for any reason other than to relieve pain, and what happened.

Thanks in advance!

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I’ve had this for years, it hurts, I cant move my shoulder – what could this be, what treatment should I get?

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--- Ron DiLauro, Spine-Health System Moderator : 07/21/15 23:10est


  • SukhreSSukhre San Diego, CAPosts: 181
    What I have understand
    1. If MRI is decent and someone is in serious pain, doctors try to give that person therapy, epidural, traction, pain med.. and if conservative treatment fails then surgery
    2. If someone have myleopathy and/or weakness with bad MRI then surgery is a high possibility
    3. If MRI is really concerning... surgery may be considered... i guess surgeon dependent.
    MRI shows C4-C7 severe steonosis. Pain in hand.
  • Thank you Sukhre!

    It seems that the symptom that is most common and bothersome is pain so that is what I kept reading about. I guess I am just having trouble accepting the fact that I might have to have surgery when my symptoms are not so bad, with the thought that the surgery could make them worse :o
    Sukhre said:
    What I have understand
    1. If MRI is decent and someone is in serious pain, doctors try to give that person therapy, epidural, traction, pain med.. and if conservative treatment fails then surgery
    2. If someone have myleopathy and/or weakness with bad MRI then surgery is a high possibility
    3. If MRI is really concerning... surgery may be considered... i guess surgeon dependent.
  • Coltsfan78CColtsfan78 Posts: 182
    edited 07/22/2015 - 5:27 PM
    I replied to someone else in a thread entitled something like "L5/S1 Nerve Problems" (might not be the exact title). To answer your question specifically, I will just tell you that in general, while pain gets the most attention in terms of people that have a herniated disc, doctors tend to consider numbness/weakness/radiculopathy (meaning pain originating from the back and being referred into the hip/buttock/leg/foot, but not necessarily being felt in the back) as much more serious symptoms.

    If you have an MRI that shows a large herniation and you already have signs of nerve compression (the weakness/lack of use of your muscles) then you have a serious problem. How you go about treating it is debatable. Only you and your surgeon/doctor can decide what is best for you, but sometimes symptoms other than pain can be even more serious. From personal experience, I can tell you that nerve damage is not something to be messed with. Even if you come out of it with full functioning limbs, you may have residual neuropathy which is definitely no fun either. In my case, in a relatively short time-frame, I ended up with what is likely permanent neuropathy and weakness in one leg/foot. I will likely always walk with a limp and have to take some form of meds for the neuropathy symptoms. My first symptoms were months of tingling/intermittent numbness, but absolutely no pain. Eventually it did progress to extremely debilitating pain, but I suspect by then, the damage was well on its way to being done.

    No matter what, make sure you get a second (or maybe even third) opinion before preceding with a treatment plan that involves surgery. Best wishes as you go forward.
    Left leg radiculopathy/sciatic pain
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - May 30, 2014
    L5/S1 microdiscectomy - Aug 14, 2014
    L5/S1 TLIF - Sept. 24, 2014
    Left-side screws/rod removed along with bone fragment Dec. 29, 2014
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