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



  • I am a 33 year old Fireman with three little ones. I have had back pain since 2004. It has really gotten worse the last 3 years. I have Deg. Disk Disease in my L4-L5 and worse in the L5-S1. They are also herniated. I have had a ton of epidurals, sometimes giving me a short period of relief. I had an Intradiscal that really made me feel better for six months, that was last year. Wow, those were the days. My surgeon does not want to give me another one due to Infection. I had a Discogram done and although he over pressurized the discs he could not reproduce my pain. He was puzzled at the results and decided I was not a canidate for disc surgery and the problem lies in my facet joints. Well two facet injections later, not quite. I have taken Lyrica, didn't help. I am again trying the Naprean and seeing a Rheumatologist, though it hopefully helps, my pain lies deeper than arthritis. I am now up to 6 30mg roxicodones a day, definetly not where I invisioned myself a year ago. My second opinion said that he can do the fusion but can't guarantee it will help me. Thanks alot. These surgeons I am seeing are the best in New Jersey, that is a fact. I am in so much pain and not only missing the best job in the world but missing out on doing anything with my children. I can't play with them, give them baths, and sometimes miss out on them growing up. Sorry so long, my first post.
  • I had my first fusion at the ripe age of 22. I have experienced the domino effect to some degree. I had my second fusion at 32, to repair the first one that fell apart, and another level because of the damaged done to that disc from the fusion. The doc told me that a fusion's life span was from 10-15 years depending on activity. I don't know if this is an accepted time frame or for me due to my age and at that time activity levels. I really hope I don't have to repeat this every 10-15 years. I know the level above my last fusion is already herniated, but not enough to worry about. You are young, but age has nothing to do with injury. I have heard this again and again one back surgery will lead to another, which will lead to another. It isn't a optimistic outlook I know, but for me it has been true. Good luck. BTW I'm 40 now and most likely will be operated on again in January. Good luck
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  • Considering a fusion at any age is a big undertaking. The decision for a 35 year-old to have a fusion has long-term consequences. That is, a fusion limits motion in the segments fused. More loading and pressure is inevitably put on the discs/joints above or below a fusion.

    So, if you have degenerative disc changes at L4-5 and L5-S1 and have those segments fused, then at some point there surely will be issues at L3-4 and levels above the fusion.

    Additionally, where there was not a clear response to the discogram I wonder what the likelihood that a fusion would fully address your pain. There certainly would not be a guarantee that you pain would be better.

    I think it is worth revisiting your physical therapy and exercise interventions. It sounds like you have tried a lot of things but I would find a good McKenzie trained PT and see if you can make progress from that angle. It would be worth exhausting nonsurgical options before thinking about a multilevel fusion at your age. backexercisedoctor.com
  • I agree with RETIREDBOSN. I see it time and time again with people that have one surgery inevtibaly have lots more surgery waiting for them down the line. I hear a lot of people say they wish they never had the first surgery.
  • I had a fusion surgery at 34 due to DDD. I am 40 now and the 2 discs above the fusion have herniated and slipped forward because of the original fusion. Doctors dont want to do another fusion on me now either. I am in soo much pain all of the time and I have tried and done everything there is out there. It has not gotten better. I new when I woke up that it did not fix my problem. Please get several opinions and make this your last option. Be ready for the consequences because it might not be the answer. I just had a dorsal column stimulator implanted and it doesnt even control the pain in my legs, knees and feet, much less my back. I really feel for you because I have been there and I would do anything to have made different decisions back then. God Bless you and I hope that you get the relief you are looking for.
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  • I am 40, been dealing with a herniated disk at L5-S1 for 8 years, had a Laminectomy 2 years ago didn't help. The doctor said I was too young to have a fusion at 38 and I didn't want to have one. Now 2 years later still in pain L5-S1 now has DDD and I saw another doctor one of the best in Atlanta and he said fusion so I'm getting it done on Feb 5th. My insurance will not cover a ADR but they will cover the fusion and my doctor said he's seen a lot of ADRs fail. Just like everybody else said get a 2nd opinion.

    I've been thinking a lot about this, I just think its strange, when I was 38 I was too young to get a fusion, but now I'm 40 and their like we'll get it now before you get older, your not getting any younger.
  • I got hurt on the job in 2007, had several months of meds, PT, and even 1 injection which I had a reaction to. I then after being sent to my 3rd surgoen thanks to workman's comp finally had an L4-L5 microdecompression surgery. I felt good after that for a while, 1 1/2 years later I was admitted to the hospital for iv pump pain management after just fixing my hair for work. About a year after that I had another flare up but only for 2-3 weeks. Now it's been 10 weeks and I can barely sleep. I was taking almost 12mg of dilaudid and 2 advil pm just to sleep but it stopped working so I stopped taking it. My surgeon from 2007 recomended now with the new advances that I do a 2 level L3-L5 fusion. Well according to my workmans comp insurance he is no longer on their board. That was 2 weeks ago. I'm waiting for them to send me to another dr and do a new MRI. They said they needed last years records first. Nice of them while I sit here in pain... My lawyer re-opened the case and if we don't get an appt in 10 days he's making a motion to the court to continue treatment. I was really secure and comfortable with my surgeon and now I'm scared having to see a new one. He was saying with the advances he would definately consider me a candidate at just 31. He said he uses cages with a protien sponge to stimulate bone growth instead of a bone graft. Anyone else heard of that??
  • I understand your concerns with multiple surgeries, etc. But for example I fell off a roof ten years ago, fractured a vertebrae and have never been the same since. I have spent TEN years with back pain. I haven't been able to play with my kids, play softball like I did in high school or play any sports competitively. I have gained 70 pounds too. Its awful. I have had it. I have had enough. I want at least a "chance" of being in less pain. I think once every conservative option is worn out and several years have passed, your age should not be as much of an issue. Thats just my opinion, I'm not a doctor (but I am a lawyer) ;-) (which of course has nothing to do with it) But it interferes with my ability to do my job and my job is hard to do on Percoset.
  • Anonymous said:
    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?
  • yes, fusion in the continental us is not recommended.
    they are using new technology in europe for ten years now and waiting for our FDA to approve here. the problem being you will be doing a fusion every two to three years because the surrounding bone will eventually degenerate, once you are engaged to this type of surgery consider yourself married to it for life, i am personally waiting for the FDA to approve the method they use in europe currently.
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