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Thoracic Spine Surgery options

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,321
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:39 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi everyone!
I am new to Spine Health, and I'm hoping someone can maybe give me advice/guidance/share stories or similar experiences.

I was in a car accident in 2006, where I was hit from behind. I was stopped, waiting to turn, and the man who hit me was going 55 mph. Thankfully, I was taken to the ER for a couple of tests and was able to be discharged that same day.

I still experience pain daily in my back and occasionally neck. The pain is all on the right side and sometimes curves around to my ribs and stomach and up into and under the right shoulder blade. One objective finding after an MRI was done was a bulging/herniated disc at T7-8. I've been through chiropractic care, physical therapy, I've done the epidural steroid injections, the pain medicine...the whole nine. However, I'm only 28 years old, and am frustrated by the amount of pain I feel on a daily basis. It's harder and sometimes impossible for me to do things that I used to enjoy. Being an elementary school teacher, it is also hard for me to perform my job like I could in the past. Recently, I've felt like I've exhausted all of my non-surgical treatment options, so my Physiatrist recommended me to get a spine surgical consult.

Well, I went today and the doctor informed me that the only option would be a thoracotomy. He said the reason is the cannot enter the spine from the back, due to the placement of the nerves and the spinal cord....that it could cause paralysis. He said he probably wouldn't do that procedure anyway, since I seem to be able to "live with" the pain. Honestly, I think if that was the only option, I'd opt to NOT have the surgery, since it seems so extensive, intense and a tough recovery. In fact, the doctor told me I had passed the "crazy test". Meaning, if I had said, "okay let's do it!" I'd be crazy!!

With all that being said my question is: has anyone ever had any other surgical treatment for a thoracic herniation besides a thoracotomy, or something like it? Before I decide go to more doctors for other opinions I wanted to see if there were other minimally invasive treatment options out there. Any help would be so greatly appreciated!! Thank you so much!




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Comments

  • First of all, welcome to the forum! :)

    I'm not sure what a thoracic herniation means, but I wanted to post because we are very close in age. I'm 27, and I totally understand what you mean by being sick of this pain at such a young age. It sucks. I just had fusion surgery 2 weeks ago. It was done minimally invasive and the scar is only about 2" long, max. They went in through my back to access my spine, so whoever said that would cause paralysis was wrong. Supposedly since it was M.I. I will have a shorter recovery time than if it were 'open'.

    I would see another surgeon (or two) for a 2nd opinion so you can compare their recommendations.
  • Your doc is correct that thoracic surgery is very difficult. You probably won't find too many folks who have had their T-spine worked on here (or elsewhere for that matter). However, there are advances being made in medicine every day. You might want to check out the Laser Spine Institute -- I think there are a few in the country. They may be able to do some less invasive surgery that could help your pain without having to get into those very essential structures.

    All the best to you,
    Linda
    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
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  • first, just some basic information -- the thoracic spine is located in the chest area and contains 12 vertebrae. the ribs connect to the thoracic spine and protect many vital organs. there are twelve pairs of spinal nerves that connect to the thoracic vertebrae, and they are contained in a sac inside the spinal cord. the nerves at this level control movement and sensation in the trunk and abdomen.

    you don't have to worry so much about paralysis in the lumbar spine because the actual spinal cord stops around the first or second lumbar vertebra. the vertebrae and discs above that level are much more risky to operate on.

    it is not a matter of how big the incision is. the problem is that all the spinal nerves are in the way of being able to "see" the area that needs to be exposed for thoracic surgery.

    the thoracic area is particularly tricky as your doctor mentioned. otherwise, they can go in through the side, but it usually involves the removal of the rib. none of the procedures sound particularly desirable!!

    there are some good articles about thoracic disc herniation on this website:

    https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/herniated-disc/thoracic-disc-herniation-treatment

    also i am sending you a pm with some additional information.

    gwennie
  • FareedFFareed Abilene , Texas Posts: 61

    gwennie17 said:

    first, just some basic information -- the thoracic spine is located in the chest area and contains 12 vertebrae. the ribs connect to the thoracic spine and protect many vital organs. there are twelve pairs of spinal nerves that connect to the thoracic vertebrae, and they are contained in a sac inside the spinal cord. the nerves at this level control movement and sensation in the trunk and abdomen.

    you don't have to worry so much about paralysis in the lumbar spine because the actual spinal cord stops around the first or second lumbar vertebra. the vertebrae and discs above that level are much more risky to operate on.

    it is not a matter of how big the incision is. the problem is that all the spinal nerves are in the way of being able to "see" the area that needs to be exposed for thoracic surgery.

    the thoracic area is particularly tricky as your doctor mentioned. otherwise, they can go in through the side, but it usually involves the removal of the rib. none of the procedures sound particularly desirable!!

    there are some good articles about thoracic disc herniation on this website:

    https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/herniated-disc/thoracic-disc-herniation-treatment

    also i am sending you a pm with some additional information.

    gwennie

    any update plz ?
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