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To fuse sooner or later?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,321
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:33 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am new to this forum and am looking for some advice. I had a ruptured L5 S1 disc in 1/03 and had a microdiscectomy at that time. I have chronic back pain with some nerve damage in my left leg. Pain got worse in early '08 and I had facet injections that didn't help and then an epidural and PT which did help. In early '09 I had a second ESI which didn't help at all. My pain doc sent me to see a surgeon to see if I'd be a candidate for disc replacement. The 1st ortho said fusion so I got a second opinion who specialized in disc replacement. 2nd ortho said I was not a candidate due to bad facet joints. So fusion is my only surgical option. I'm 29 in good health with pain that requires vicodin and aleve every day(but usually only 1-2x per day). All my other discs looked good on MRI and discogram. Do I wait to minimize long term complications with a fusion or do I get it over with sooner to minimize how bad the recovery might be? I go back to see the original ortho on 7/20. What kinds of questions should I be asking?


  • This is a question that we all ponder after having been told our only option is fusion. I waited three years before I finally accepted that there was not another procedure that would relieve my pain.

    There have been several people on the board recently that have been told they are too young to have fusion, but that is apparently not a problem you've had.

    If you do not have neurological impairment such as foot drop or problems involving the bladder or bowels, it is up to you to decide when the timing is right for surgery.

    There is lots of good information on this website and others on the internet on spinal fusion. Read through some of it as it will suggest questions that you will want to ask the surgeon.

    I would also ask if you have any other options other than surgery... if there are any pain medications that might work for you if you do not have fusion...
    might you be able to have another discectomy? (I am not clear about your diagnosis.)
  • Thanks for your input. I'm not really sure what my specific diagnosis at this point would be. That will be my first in a long list of questions I take with me to my next appt. I know that the original surgeon told me that he took most of the disc out and expected it to "fuse on it's own". It has not. The L5 S1 space is totally black on MRI and it was the only culprit causing pain on the discogram. L3L4 and L4L5 discs are normal. I've had Sciatica from the very begining in 2002. The new symptoms are numbness and tingling in my left foot and toes. I trip a lot and sometimes I have a slight limp on the left, but I've always thought it was just clumsiness or residual nerve damage from the original rupture and impingement on that nerve. Just the word fusion scares me into tears. This sucks!
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