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Emergency Plan?

I visited a neurosurgeon today about bulging discs that aren't yet operable. I didn't ask him all the questions I came prepared with because he's referring me to a physiatrist and I feel guilty asking too many "What If" questions. I did mention my occasional toe numbness, and it sounds like there will be more testing in my future.

Anyways, as someone who is starting down the degenerative road, I wanted to reach out to forum members with more experience and ask if you had/have an emergency plan. What if you experienced incontinence? What if your foot became numb? I assume that at some point surgery becomes necessary. How do you define an "emergency"?

When it comes to this area, I feel quite lost. I read stories online of people with nerve pain and function loss who regret not seeking help sooner. Yet, I have no "emergency" plan. I would make an appointment to be seen in a month or longer and seek more meds for increased pain.


  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,862
    There are so many different unknowns and what ifs that could happen.

    I will go back to my first lumbar surgery in 1978. For about 2 years prior to the surgery, I was seeing various orthopedic doctors who were all looking into my hip (thats where the pain generated from). Over time, that started to get worse and one doctor put me in for a myelogram, which confirmed a herniated disc at L4/L5.

    The thought process at the time was there didnt seem to be any nerve impingement, so even though surgery was inevitable, it was more or less when I could not take it any more. One cold winter night several families went sled riding and ice skating together. I was on the skates for about 5 minutes, when I thought something just tore threw my leg. Following day, my right leg was basically useless. A nerve really got compromised.
    SO, my emergency plan - When I couldnt walk, it was time

    I've gone through this with all of my joint replacements and Achilles reconstructive surgery. The doctors told me that I could not do any more harm by holding off surgery, so it was up to me when to say GO. For my hips, my GO was while I was working at the wine shop, I had to get down on all fours to pick up something. I then realized, I could not get up, I could if I used the wine racks as support.... not a good idea. So, instead I crawled the length of he store to the cooler section where I was able to hoist myself up.... That was my ITS TIME

    So, I guess, what I am saying, its really going to be up to you. That is assuming your doctors have told you that holding of is not going to create more of a problem.

    You will know when its time, your family will now when its time
    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
  • Coltsfan78CColtsfan78 Posts: 182
    edited 08/24/2015 - 3:58 PM
    Well, incontinence and loss of sensation in the groin/saddle area is an emergency. It's not super likely to happen, but it's a true emergency situation, like you need to be seen that day ASAP.

    Any new weakness/loss of normal sensation may not be an emergency, but it's definitely a strong warning sign that you've got a bigger problem. If you can't bear weight on your toes/or leg, if you don't have appropriate reflexes in any part of your leg (or I suppose this applies to the upper extremities as well, I just have lumbar experience!) then you need to be seen sooner rather than later to avoid potentially long-lasting nerve damage. I learned the hard way that nerve damage can be occurring even without pain, just with persistent numbness and tingling.

    So I guess the best advice is to read up on potential signs and symptoms for your particular spinal region (lumbar, thoracic or cervical) and don't be afraid to ask what is a very smart question. You are the one who will have to live with the end result, so don't worry about what anyone else thinks about your questions or concerns.
    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
  • BManBBMan Posts: 113
    edited 08/25/2015 - 10:08 AM
    Thank you for the responses. I called and talked with the clinic manager. She told me there are 3 spine circumstances that require a visit to the ER: Inability to go to the bathroom or going unintentionally, consistent numbness or loss of feeling, and drastic rise in pain. After I go to the ER, they will determine if I need emergency surgery or if I have time to see the surgeon I choose. While true emergencies do not happen often, the clinic manager (at a popular spine hospital) sees them about once every 3 months.

    This will be my emergency plan, then. It's easier said than done. As Dilauro says, it will "develop" naturally if it is the route I need to take.
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