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New here, scary diagnosis

Hello all, I just joined this site after reading posts here for quite some time. A little background, I had a L5-S1 fusion on 7/17/17. Everything went great and I went back to work just about exactly 12 weeks later. I’m not exactly sure when my neck symptoms started, as I have a pretty high pain tolerance, and a tendency to just push through and work because I have no choice. 

Probably around September or October, I noticed that my right arm hurt. A LOT. I was dropping things all the time, and I was feeling sensations in my neck that felt like I was wearing a TENS unit all the time. In January I went back to my surgeon with those symptoms. He ordered an MRI of my cervical spine, and the results shocked us both. Turns out I have 5 herniated discs from C3-C7, 2 of which (C3-C4, and C4-C5) are ruptured. That is combined with moderate stenosis at C3-4, 4-5, and severe stenosis with complete obliteration and spinal cord flattening at C5-6 and C6-7. 

It seems that in the 6 weeks since that MRI, my symptoms are worsening every day. I now am having constant headaches and intermittent shortness of breath. Today I had my 1st of 3 ESIs. There was NO relief at all, and my surgeon said there would most likely not be. I have another ESI on 3/7, and the last one on 3/14, followed by a surgical eval on 3/29. 

When the injection was over I looked my surgeon in the eye and asked him how bad is this? He told me that my spinal cord is in a very dangerous position right now and I am definitely going to need major surgery to fix it. 

I’m terrified. I’m not understanding why we are even doing 2 more injections and waiting 4 more weeks to even discuss surgery if he is so sure I need it. I’m not questioning the need for surgery, as a nurse, I know anatomy and I know that this could paralyze me or even kill me with a wrong move or God forbid, a car accident. 

By the way, I’m 45 years old, and I’ve never been in a car accident with injury, and I’ve never fallen from a great height. My surgeon said he thought he was looking at the MRI of a 90 year old, or someone who suffered a great trauma. 



  • Welcome to the best spinal site on the web nurse kiddy! As a past medical professional as well, I understand your concern as well. Especially dealing anywhere near C-3! I as well had 1 injection which did not do a thing! My surgeon then scheduled surgery and I had a unsuccessful fusion of C-5 through C-7 with left sided radiculapathy.  I can understand your headaches but do you think your episodes of SOB are anxiety related?  Regardless , you already know what the treatment plan is and what is needed. Are you able to contact your surgeon and request another appointment and say let’s get it done ?  If your surgeon has remarked that your spine is at a dangerous angle, I would definitely become more proactive! Please keep us posted on the situation!.....David


    Veritas-Health Forum Moderator

  • HI nursekiddy
    David is right you have came to a great site. Members here will offer support and listen when you need it plus do their best to help you with your concerns.
    I have never had neck surgery but in a MRI the Pain Doctor asked me when I had neck surgery. Husband said "what she never has". several have fused themselves. Not until this past few months have I had some issues I am getting worried about. 
    Is it possible for you to make an apt. with him to discuss the questions you have? To me those need to be answered before proceeding with any further steps or treatment. 
    I hope things go well for you and you get answers to your concerns and have success with whatever direction you go.

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  • nurse kiddy

    Welcome to Spine-Health

    What you are going through right now is very scary, I was in the same situation a little over a year ago, neck and right arm started hurting, had a MRI, report said C4-C7 herniations with spinal cord flattening, go to doctor and was told basically same thing, don't fall or be in a wreck, you could be easily paralyzed, that is scary. My surgeon didn't try any injections or anything else, we went straight to surgery, there are a lot of insurance companies that make doctors try conservative treatments before surgery, your doctor should be able to talk with them about the severity of the situation and get authorization for surgery, it requires a little more paper work and maybe a phone call, but usually that works. I had my surgery ACDF C4-C7 in Feb. 2018, stayed in hospital 1 night, arm pain was gone when I woke up, recovery went very well. The one piece of advice I will give you is to continue your exercises after PT, i did not do a very good job of that and have suffered a lot of tightness in my neck and shoulders, learned my lesson and am trying to catch up now. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress

    Veritas-Health Moderator

  • Nursekiddy, I want to reinforce what Chip replied. Especially when you have cord flattening, injections will NOT solve that but will end up with permanent nerve damage. ( ask me how I know ) I can’t understand why the surgeon didn’t make that a emergent surgery especially with the involvement of C-3. Please keep us posted......David


    Veritas-Health Forum Moderator

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