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Need help, been told I am not a candidate for surgery

frank921ffrank921 Posts: 2
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:57 AM in Degenerative Disc Disease
First let me tell you my history. 7 years ago I had a discetomy at l5-s1. Recovered 100%. 2 years ago fell out of my attic and fractures at l4 and l5. Last August, my back started hurting again so I went to see my docotor. I presented with low back pain and numbness in legs. Did physical therapy, medications with no relief. Did mri which showed two heriniationsl4-l5 and l5-s1. In dec, involved in auto accident and new mri showed both herniations had worsened and one was touching s1 nerve root. Also, in the report it was noted that i had at least moderate stenosis and also epidural liptmosis. I did two rounds epidural steroid injections that worked for a couple months then the numbness started in both legs. While on vacation in August I was rolling an icechest down a hallway and my back started hurting so bad I left the icechest behind. I could not move for two days. Since then things have gotten worse. Now getting shooting pains down to both feet. Big tow on both feet have sharp pains. The pain in my legs gets to be a real bad burning at times. Have sharp stabing pains in my back. It was really hard to get through a day of work. My doctor sent me for another esi and it did no good. He no longer does surgery so he refered me to another othopedic surgeon. Went to see him and he sent me to do an emg and said my leg pains could be caused by neuropathy. I did the test and the report show that there is denervation at both level and stated there is no signs of neuropathy. The doctor then said our option would be surgery but did not want to do this because of my age and that it could make things worse. He said that I would need to be two fused levels and that I would never work again. He said because of my history and my weight the chance of full recovery would not be good. I am at about 350lbs and just turned 40 years. He suggested that i get another opinion. This will actually be a third opinion because my original doctor told me I would need a fusion. I went to see a neurosurgeon. He told me that I have ddd and that I am not a candidate for surgery. I asked him what could be done, and he said take stronger pain medication. This is something I am going to have to live with. I am no longer working because I can not deal with the pain. I do not know what to do now. Do I apply for disability? Do I seek out another opinion? I cant accept that I now have to live with this.



  • i was told the same thing and turned down by 4 consultant and told to take more oxycontin .after many Internet post i found a consultant in the uk{where i live } and he is a specialist in ADR/FUSIONS i can't have ADR but he said a ALIF fusion was about the best bet .so after waiting 12 months my turn is up so on the 29 dec i will be having my ALIF ..its a big operation and there are no guarantees but i can't go on as i am ..maybe you should look around again .?? good luck my friend
    1997 laminectomy
    2007 repeat laminectomy and discectomy L4/L5
    2011 ALIF {L4/L5/S1}
    2012 ? bowel problems .still under investigation
    2014 bladder operation may 19th 2014
  • Frank please seek out a couple more opinions from fellow ship trained Neuro Surgeons and Ortho Surgeons. You have conflicting advice and that makes it important to keep looking.

    As for the weight you didn't say how tall you are so it is hard to be objective. My husband is a big guy who weighs a lot, but he works out all the time (he's a diabetic).

    If you can loose some weight rapidly great. I have had great success with low carb dieting to take weight off rapidly.

    As for becoming PD I have had 2 spinal fusions with 6 levels (neck & lumbar) and now we are going for the thoracic fusion (so I will be a 3 fusion patient). I work full time (from a home based office). There has been no talk of permanent disability from my NS. I have been on STD but after each fusion I went back to work 11 weeks on the PLIF and 8 weeks on the ACDF.

    On the other hand. One of my best friends went on total disabilty due to her weight & back pain. Once on disability she was able to have the stomach stapling surgery (whatever medicare paid she had to pay a portion). She lost weight around 100# and then went back to school. She actually has changed careers twice (went to school twice). She only had a MD in like 1988 and now she is having back problems again.

    Please get in and talk about your future with one of these doctors. Maybe you can come up with a plan. In the mean time you could try pain management. I thought I would never go to it, but I have now been in a year and it is a crutical part of my spine health care. With out it, I can't imagine where I would be.

    Hang in there >:D<

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  • Welcome to Spine Health. Sorry that circumstance brought you to our forum. There's a bunch of caring folks here and know that they will do whatever they can to help you or just simply to listen when you need someone to talk to.

    Everyone has given you some good advice. Some doctors are afraid of taking on high risk cases. Some doctors are so hung up on age and weight that it makes your head spin.

    Julie's right on the money, it would be so beneficial to hook up with a good pain management specialist while you are tracking down a doc that is willing to help you.

    You have to be your own advocate. Did the doc tell you why exactly he considers you not to be a surgical candidate?

    Hang in there and stick with the gang here. If nothing else maybe we can provide enough of a distraction to help you through these times.

  • Frank, I'm sorry that you're hurting so much and hope that you find the strength to cope with this change in your life.

    You are very young to start the cycle of surgeries that a fusion could very well lead to (and does lead to for many folks). Instead of looking at doctors' hesitancy to start you down that road as a negative, instead try to see it for what it is -- a chance to work at resolving your condition without drastically and permanently changing your spine's ability to support your body.

    Even with your history, you've only been in the acute phase of back pain for a couple of months. Fusion surgery is more of a "down the road" choice for people with long-term chronic pain when nothing has worked and there are very, very few options left.

    Before you ask doctors to do something drastic to treat your pain, ask yourself two questions:

    1. Have I given my doctors every opportunity to find a less-invasive treatment that will work to help/resolve my pain?

    2. Have I done everything in my own personal power to allow my spine to recover and the nerves to heal?

    Frank, I don't think enough time has elapsed for you to answer "yes" to #1. And as for #2... well, you must know that your weight places additional load on your spine, and if your abdomen is very large it can place some shearing force on your lumbar area when the muscles are weak.

    So, my focus, personally, would be to work at losing some of the weight. It will likely help with the pain -- and if you should need surgery after all other options are ruled out, it will absolutely make the procedure itself and your physical recovery much easier and safer for you, with less risk for complications and infection.

    Remember that surgery isn't a cure, it's an attempt to stop a deteriorating condition from progressing further and does not always help with pain.

    Please keep in contact, there are people here who understand and want to support you.
  • Thanks for all of your thoughts. I am 6'2" so i am a pretty big guy. I know my weight does not help and I am trying to do what I can to change my eating habits. I have had to stop working because my job requires me to be on my feet for about 9 hours a day and my legs hurt so bad I cant do it. I have tried and I just cant. I am going to seek out another opinion. i even have considered traveling to find the best doctor I can. All 3 doctors that I have seen have said that surgery would be the fix for my problem and have not really given me any other options. My wife says that I am starting to get depressed. I believe she may be right. I knew this would not be easy when this started but I never knew it could be this bad.
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  • Hi Frank,
    I feel for you buddy! I am also 6'2", weigh 210lbs, dont smoke, no drugs. Disk at L5-S1 wore out.
    Been seeking treatment for 3 years. Finally elected to "get this fixed". 2nd surgeon I saw told me I was a good candidate to have this done. I was finally happy and positive for a change. I decided to ask a few more questions about my doctor's success rate, etc.. So next time he sees me he has a complete change of heart and tells me I don't look like I am in enough pain. Told me to deal with the pain and that I could have this surgery 10 years down the road if I wanted it then. I'm starting to think this guy is afraid that I would sue him (cause of my questions)so he went and cancelled my surgery appointment. Yea, I am bummed too. Keep browsing these forums like I am doing. There is a lot of helpful information out here.
  • i have DDD and had my 1st surgery at 32, 7 mths later another ( both disectomy, lamectomies) then 9 mths after that they finally did a fusion which, is what i asked about after 1st one. i have multiple level degeneration but my fusion was on L4-L5, L5-S1. i was told by prior dr suregry was not an option and this one mentioned my age w the fusion but once i got to the point b4 fusion i was in wheel chair and once he saw me he scheduled surgery 2dys later. yeah it sucks having fusion so young (and 8 yrs younger than you) but why does my age matter when i cant even walk around my house? every surgery i had was my ABSOLUTE last option- i hope u can get pain relief and some normalcy back- w/or w/o surgery...
  • Ariel51AAriel51 Toronto, OntarioPosts: 5
    Hi Frank, I am responding to your question in 2011 so it may be kind of late now but I am just now at the point of looking into surgery.  The one thing that stood out for me is that the doctor/surgeon told you that your age is a factor in you not being a candidate for surgery.  This is hard for me to believe as I am 65 and the neurosurgeon told me that I am a good candidate for surgery...so I don't think your age should be a factor.  Maybe it was the weight as others have mentioned but I saw that you are trying to lose a few pounds.  

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I don't think your age should be a factor considering you are only 40 (or were when you posted).  I hope things worked out for you.  Don't know if you've posted about the outcome.  I feel badly you have experienced so much pain and I hope you are feeling a bit better now. 
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