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To Fuse of not to Fuse 13 years after disc removal

LeonCLLeonC Posts: 1
edited 09/18/2015 - 7:20 PM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi. My husband had a partial disc removal 13 years ago at L4 L5 after the disc herniated and has had continuous back pain at varying degrees of pain. He would have episodes of what we thought was back muscle spasms, which would as he calls it, "take his legs out from under him". This would result in visits to the doctor, anti-inflammatory meds painkillers, and muscle relaxants, legs elevated and bed rest.
Over the last year these episode have become more regular. We saw an Orthorpaidic Spinal surgeon yesterday, did MRI and EMG. Results show that he now has a herniated disc a L5 S1, bone degeneration at L4 L5, but also nerve damage causing drop foot in his left leg.
They are now wanting to perform a fusion on L3 L4 L5 S1. The risks as we understand it is really high. They say if he doesn't have the procedure he could suffer permanet paralysis of the leg, L5 vertebrae can become unstable.
We are not sure if the benefits of the operation outways the risks, especially as he has been managing his current condition for so long.

We would appreciate any advice on how to move forward with this.


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  • Sorry to hear he has arrived at this crossroad. It's always a tough thing!

    My best advice is to seek a 2nd opinion right away.

    Make sure you find the right surgeon you are happy and comfortable with. There are a lot of bad surgeons out there. Do your homework, travel to a good surgeon if you have to.

    Also ask the surgeon to explain his procedure in detail. You want to be comfortable about the hardware and methods they will use. There are different ways of doing this surgery, figure out what one is best for his particular situation.

    Best of luck!
  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 729
    edited 09/17/2015 - 8:06 PM
    Dear Leon

    Sorry to hear of the growing back problems... in fact they sound quite similiar to mine... but BorkenLumbar is right on the money. If you have any doubts seek a second or even thrid opinion. Your need/deserve to be satisfied and comfortable with whatever decision or direction you go for treatment. A 3 level fusion surgery is a BIG surgery and recovery will be a longgggg road... many months not weeks. I've had 2 fusion surgeries and the first took 12 months to be 100% again and for the second I'm at 8 months post op now and still not fully fused. You didn't say how old your husband is but definitely age is also a factor... my first surgery was at 60 and my second was at 62 and for sure I noticed it was "harder" for the second surgery. One option to ask about is maybe doing a 1 or 2 level fusion instead of a 3 level. The more the levels... the more chance of a failed fusion. In fact some doctors refuse to do 3 level fusions in the lower lumbar region as once the fusion is complete it will put enormous pressure on the L2-L3 disc potentially causing it to herniate over time. Having said this... back surgery has come a long way in the past 10 years so it is really up to you and your doctor.
    Harry - 63 year old male...
    PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
    PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
    Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015
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