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PAINFUL DDD, 35 years old, Dr. says no to fusion.

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,321
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:31 AM in Degenerative Disc Disease
I am 35 years old and have had lower back pain for about 10 years now...diagnosed with DDD 8 years ago. My pain has gotten to where it's constant...can't bend over, stand...walking is a chore! I had my first lumbar epidural, it lasted for 3 days now the pain is back. My Dr. said there is "no way in hell" he'd do a spinal fusion on someone my age. Anyone else been told that? Spinal fusion that bad?


  • Welcome to the board. I am sorry for the reason that brings you to us. You are very young to have had back problems for such a long time already.

    There have been others your age and younger who have been told similar things. Also, comments about how the doctors do not believe that they are in pain because they are so young....

    Just like hip replacement a number of years ago, the patient had to be over a certain age before she/he was considered a "candidate" for surgery, because at that time, the lifespan of the artificial hip was only about ten years. If they implanted it too early, it would not last for the life of the patient.

    I think there is a similar attitude about fusion in people your age and younger. Not only do you have a lot of life left, but it is assumed that this age group would be more active than older patients. With fusion there is a worry about the "domino effect." This is where the vertebral levels next to the areas that are fused eventually go bad too, as they take the brunt of the stress from the fusion. (The hardware may screw into them, they pick up the brunt of any torque or movement in that segment of the spine, etc.) This is a valid issue for any of us that have fusion, but your chances increase the younger you are, just due to how much longer you might have the hardware, etc.

    The most valid reason I can think of for waiting is the hope that technology will improve. For example, they are hardly doing fusions in Germany any more. They are becoming obsolete because they now use the artificial disk so much instead of removing the disk and adding hardware or a spacer as they still do in the U.S. I know there are ongoing trials here for ADR and also for some newer things that are in the process of being tested.

    Hope you hear from some of your peers on the board who can share their experiences.

    Please post with your questions and comments...and, again, welcome.

    xx Gwennie
  • Good luck and get other Drs opinion like NeuroSurgeon also. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
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  • I was told no to any type of surgery at 22 (23 now) for DDD as well. Now a year later it's much worse, and I need something, anything done.
  • I am working on core strenghting and stretching but the pain really sucks. I was told the same exact thing and I find it good that surgeons arent quick to act just to make a buck, but depending on the level of pain we are all in, something needs to be done.

    For me, I would need a three level fusion because in between two bad discs with DDD I have a disc that only has a bulge and slight DDD and it would only be a matter of time before that went too. I dont know what information this post give you, but I just wanted to let you know you are not alone.

    Hang in there.....Mitch
  • I guess if you're on the young side, you're expected to handle the pain better?? :S

    I don't really understand because I know several people that had a multi-level fusion when they were in their early twenties. The surgeries lasted until well into their forties...so I guess you're looking at getting 20+ years out of a surgery, IF YOU ARE LUCKY.

    Have the doctors told you how old you have to be to be a candidate for fusion?? Have you asked what you are supposed to do in the meantime?

    I would think you run the risk of causing further damage by doing nothing....
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  • ADR Is really just getting started in America.....give it time...
  • I'm really sorry about the pain you are in, have you gotten the other two Epidurals for your lower lumbar I know that sometimes it takes all three to make a difference. I'm 33 and I have been told that it would be the worst mistake if I got surgery also. I have DDD in 4 discs in my lumbar. I'm hoping that I can hold out for the ADR. I just got done with my second Epdurial and it has taken some of the pain away. I still have numbness in my right leg every once in awhile, but the doctor said that it wasn't doing any damage. I hope that you can find some relief, I pray that there will be a new surgery that can help people with multi levels that won't put them in more pain after the surgery. My prayers will be with you!!!
  • I have had DDD pain for the last 12 years or so and went through all of the conservative treatments and was told that although I needed surgery I was too young. I am now 42 yrs old and just had an ADR this past Thursday. It is too soon to tell whether this surgery was successful or not, my doc says 2 to 3 months before we know for sure. If it isn't successful, he will go back in and fuse. Although on the MRI it shows that I have compressed discs at 3 levels, there was only one disc that was causing me pain. A discogram was done to determine which disc was causing this pain. Please don't give up hope, and don't take the word of only one Dr. as others have said, get a second and third opinion if necessary.
  • One of the reasons why I had a 2 level fusion was because of severe DDD in L4-5 and L5-S1; I was 34. The decision to do one varies from doctor to doctor since they all have their own opinions on the matter. I also recommend to try all conservative measures before having a fusion done because it's major surgery and nobody can give you 100% guarantee that it will take the pain away. I was told artificial disc replacement wasn't for me due to multilevel degeneration all over my spine. The worst of my problems is in the lumbar and that's why it hurts to sit, stand, walk, drive, etc. No matter what I do it always hurts and I also have nerve pain and muscle spasms to deal with.
  • i just had spinal fusion & lunbar transitional surgery done on March 25th. i too had 2 discs fused and was installed with a new lunbar system called dynamic stabilization.
    so far so good. i only wish i had it done yrs ago. i no longer have any pain in my thigh. i can once again ride in a car. i am back to work full-time and lovin it.
    i missed so much work over the last 2 yrs i almost lost my job. finally, my doctor sent me to a big hospital where i met w/a surgeon. he talked to me about dynamic stabilization, as it had just been approved for use in the US by the FDA. i said why not. so far - i feel great.
    my only advice to you - is get a 2nd, 3rd, 4th opinion.
    good luck
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