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Fusion or Repeat Discectomy

Hello again!

So I had a 2 level discectomy L4-L5-S1 back in April 2015 for severe sciatic nerve pain extending down into my foot. It was debilitating and I almost lost my school year due to the need for constant pain medication (I was on Dilaudid, Tramadol and Morphine).

After the surgery, I was in the Cardiac ICU for awhile from an anesthesia reaction, and ended up spending around 2 weeks in hospital between that and the orthopedic floor. When I woke up, I had complete loss of sensation from the hips down (dull, sharp, hot, cold, pressure) and was unable to walk. Surgeon said there was some abnormal bleeding and the herniated portion of the disc had calcified on the nerve hence the unexpected damage. The surgery has left me with a flaccid foot drop in left foot requiring an AFO and a cane (sometimes a walker/wheelchair but they both really make me very self conscious as they tend to draw a lot of attention) as well as a foot drop in my right foot to a lesser degree. I also have no sensation along outside of calves/thighs bilaterally and no feeling on the outside, soles and tops of my feet.

Fast forward to December 2015, and I have basically returned to where I started; I'm on dilaudid and tremodal for pain, missing sleep and classes due to pain and the effects of the drugs required to control it. I had an MRI done with nuclear contrast which showed a reherniation of L4-L5-S1, schmorlls nodes, and the beginnings of a thoracic herniation as well as arthritis developing. The only good thing I'm told is that there is not much scar tissue from the original surgery.

My surgeon (orthopedic) has suggested that "if it weren't for your age (I just turned 20) I would be doing a fusion on you ASAP" and has offered either a repeat discectomy or the fusion surgery. My research (I'm a medical science major, in 2nd year [so I don't know all that much yet]) has come back with mixed results about what to do in this situation. I haven't really met anyone my age with this kind of problem and I'm having trouble finding out from a human/patient perspective what the pros and cons of each option are.

I'd love to hear if anyone has any advice regarding this decision, or if anyone has gone through something similar and can provide some hope of a light at the end of the tunnel. My grades are barely meeting cutoffs and I would really like to get back to my studies pain-free.


  • ak_lovejoiaak_lovejoi AlaskaPosts: 11
    edited 12/16/2015 - 2:20 PM
    First, I am sorry for what you've had to go through and hope you find some relief in whatever you decide to do for treatment.

    I had an L5-S1 herniation that was causing all sorts of pain and discomfort, so, I as well, got a discectomy, in hopes for relief. It took several months to get feeling back in my lower left leg and foot. Once the feeling came back, I started experiencing pains and sensations I had never experienced before. So, upon another MRI, we discovered a reherniation. I've opted out of surgery and am still indecisive about ESI's for treatment. As of now, I'm obtaining all of the information and knowledge possible about my condition and others experiences in similar conditions. I am 29, not quite as young as you are, but also, because of my age, the doctors advise against a second surgery in hopes the disc will "dry up" some and relieve pressure from my sciatic nerve. My concern is that it will calcify such as yours did. One way or another, the pain is something I'll have to live with. And if that's the case, I choose a non operative treatment at this time, until I cannot bear the pain. I hope you find some peace and comfort in knowing you're not alone, and learn to never be ashamed or embarrassed. This is your body, and we are all beautiful.
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