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L4-L5 Discectomy/Laminectomy without Fusion

I first started having pain mid-end of April 2012. Since February to now I have lost 60 lbs. I am under a dr.s care for weight loss and doing it through aerobics and diet. However towards the end of April I woke up one morning in a good amount of pain the pain was in the low back area more in the left side, after 2 days I called my PCP and was advised to try ice/heat therapy and 2 aleve twice a day if no better in 2-3 days to come in and see him. this was a Saturday. Well Monday afternoon pain continued to get worse so I made an appt. Dr. did not order Xray but stated "you more than likely have a mild herniation" I got a shot or toradol, a Rx for flexeril and a medrol dose pak. I was vertually pain free for the next week/week & half. Then of course the pain started to return.

Monday May 7th I awoke in the absolute worst pain in my life. Severe back pain, unable to stand straight, severe pain going down my left leg wrapping around my left thigh and going down the outside of the left leg feeling as though a jet plane would be firing through the outside of my ankle, and numbing the entir outside of my left foot and across my toes. I called my Dr. and he advised me to go to the ER. Well I was due in class at 10am for my semester Final exam and then at 1:00 for another semester Final exam, in college these things are not reschedulable. So I took my chances. I took 3 Aleve and a Flexeril and went to class, I stood through both finals and left immediately after meeting my husband at home where then we went to the ER. After waiting an hour I finally saw the nurse who then brought in a PA. After her assessment and finding the amount of pain, numbness and WEAKNESS in my left foot and leg she immediately brought the Dr. in, who questioned me several times if I have ever been diagnosed with Lupus and asking me if I was sure. He finally sent me for an xray. Never hearing the results or seeing the Dr. or PA again the nurse came in with 2 RX and 2 shots, toradol and solu-medrol. Which she injected right next to my spine (I have been a Medical Assistant for 7 yrs and I am a Nursing Student, and know where the inj. goes and where she put the needle is not the place) I screamed out in pain. She acts as though I am a sissy. However what happened was she hit a nerve in my back when she inserted the needle. It took over 8 hours for the meds to kick in and they wore off almost immediately.

Wednesday May 9th I awoke in the same amount of pain, called my PCP to find out he was out of the office for the day. I secured an appt. for the next day curled up into a ball sobbing. around 10 am I called my chiropractor that I formerly worked for, sobbing I told them what was wrong and begged for some type of help. He told me to come in immediately. I jumped in my car and immediately got to the office. Upon exam he found that I had lost the ability to stand on my left toes, stand on my left heel. Although I could feel something touching my outer calf, foot and toes I was unable to tell hot/cold dull/sharp. I was unable to straight leg raise either leg etc. Chiro. did nerve stimulation therapy, a mild adjustment and ultrasound therapy. I went to PCP the next day who said he would try to get me an MRI approved. Because he didnt do anything else I decided to continue with Chiro as he was actually attempting something and the first treatment seriously helped. I saw Chiro for a total of 5 treatments. Although pain was 10x better it was still sitting at a 10 on a 1-10 pain scale. I made an appt. to see Pain Mgmt. the day I got the call that my PCP advised me my ins would not approve my MRI. My appt with PM was set for that Thursday.

I went into PM with entire story, treatment, meds, dates etc written typed and printed for him to see. He came in and stated he really didnt have any questions as everything was written plain as day for him as he stated that I must be in the medical field with as complete I was. He Rx'd Neurontin 3x's day Ultram every 6 hrs and a MRI which he got approved in less than 5 min. I went home to schedule MRI the local hospital had a cancelation that evening at 7pm so i took it. The next day I received a call that they needed a 2nd MRI this time with contrast to further investigate what was going on. I called to schedule MRI and was told they could not get me in until the following Wed. I was upset to wait another 5 days, but what was I going to do?

Later that night around 10pm I got a call from the PM Dr. just checking in, he states that my MRI had been read and stamped as a critical read, basically paging and calling him 15 times during his dinner with family. My first MRI was diagnosing me with Cauda Equina Syndrome and they were wanting him to send me to the ER. however he was not concerned as I was actually at a stand still with pain, I was walking, I was able to toilet with out accidents etc. So they then decided to wait for the MRI with contrast, which I was to call first thing in the AM to get squeezed in...ya right easier said then done as it was a holiday weekend, however they happened to get me in on Sunday am at 11.

Finally on Tuesday I got my results, my spinal cord was seriously being pinched from L4 through to S2. I was being sent to a OrthoSurgeon. So that Friday I went to my appt. The Surgeon comes in and is asking me questions. He gets to the questions of what did PM do for me, I stated he sent me to you, He laughs and says what no injections first? I said He wouldn't touch me until he got the MRI and well once that was done he said he would not touch me it was too liable. So he pulls up the MRI, took one look at the MRI and said your only chance is surgery.

Now it had now been 1 full week since my first MRI, I had been living my life at this point doing nothing other than sitting in a recliner on a ice pack several times a day. I had to watch how I walked, I had to be careful as getting into a car at this point could be a matter of life with the ability to walk or not or even death.

The surgeon scheduled my Surgery for that Monday. I would be having a Laminectomy & Discectomy at L4-L5. I was told my incision would be approx. 2-3 inchs. Surgery would been 1 hr - 1.5hr. Well my incision was 6 inches, surgery lasted 2.5 hrs. the disc they removed was over 2 inches long after herniation. Dr. stated that it was the absolute worst herniation he had ever since in hid life of being a surgeon. Esp. coming from a 34 yr old female that has not recolection of how it happened. Not only that But when I came out of surgery I was on 6 liters of O2, when I finally came to enough to realize I had what seemed like 2 fans in each nostril I asked why I was on so much O2. The nurse responded with the info that they had about lost me on the table, my bp bottomed and I about flat lined, thus I needed to be on alot of O2 for the first 16-24 hours.

I went home the next day around 4-5 pm, I was pretty sore but medicated was fine. As long as I took my meds on time I was good. The next day I got outside and walked to the end of my street and back 2-3 times and each time I would increase how far I was going,

I am now 3 weeks post-op My steri strips finally fell of fully yesterday. I am still not bending stooping lifting etc. If I am up for long periods of time my back swells up and I feel as though something is ripping my skin. The muscles around the low back spasm continuously but doesnt cause pain. the muscles around my sides and into my low stomach ache. It feels as though I am sitting on a golf ball all the time and when I have some swelling it feels like a large softball.

The pain in my leg has subsided, the numbness and tingling is still there but not as noticable. I woke up this am with numbness and skin pain in my right hip, I am chalking it up to how I may of slept last night as I slept on my right side most of the night with very little movement.

I see the Dr. on Friday. The only thing that concerns me is a pain I am unsure of it sits to the left side of my spine above the point of surgery by about an inch. I am hoping it is a normal pain from me having to sit, stand and lie in a straight postured position. But it feels as though my spine has slipped to the left side, but to feel over the spine it does not curve.


  • Frannie PageFFrannie Page Posts: 193
    edited 06/18/2012 - 10:06 PM
    Been there, done that....all these weird feelings will subside in time...to what degree, only time will tell..You've been through alot, so just try to relax, and take it easy....this takes some time to heal, as you've probably been told.. all the nerves were moved around during surgery, so it takes awhile for everything to get back into postition..... My left thigh is numb most of the time, and if I walk too much, my lower back seems on fire...but all is workable with meds and learning how the post surgery body handles the everyday things... Feel better!
  • Thank you it helps to know that I am not "crazy" haha.

    The Steri strips are off now, and although the incision is dry and absolutely no drainage. Last week it flared up bright red and was very warm so out of fear of infection I started the antibiotic, which I am still on, upon my daughter looking at the incision today she says there are little zit like white bumps around the incision, and she says it looks like larger skin colored cyst like bumps I am thinking that the larger are just scar tissue that has formed but the tiny few zit like spots kinda concern me. I am on the antibiotic, there is no new pain, nor do I feel ill or is the area warm or hot. I see the surgeon on Friday.
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  • BlueSkiesBBlueSkies Posts: 59
    edited 06/20/2012 - 11:13 AM
    Well I have NOT been there done that, but I read your story quite enrapt! lol I don't know which would be worse...to have years of degeneration and be forced into surgery after a dozen MRIs over the years or to be suddenly surprised with agonizing pain, wait on an MRI, and have to undergo a surgery suddenly. I think I would have PTSD after that (and I'm only half kidding!). I will be reading to see what the surgeon says Friday.

    I am not in your shoes. My doctor says surgery may be the option he would recommend, but he says the facet arthropathy I have is likely the major source of my pain and he believes it would be worsened by surgery. I am in a reflective period these days.
  • I hope things go well with the surgeon. I had a laminectomy/discectomy without fusion in January, but I knew I'd be having it for a while - I had to wait until after I had an ACDF which was a much more major surgery for me (that surgery was over 5 hours). My l/d was luckily routine, but unfortunately my symptoms haven't really improved. Enough about me.

    Make sure you follow what the doctor says, but you know that with your background. I originally did not have physical therapy, but now I've started it because I need some more structure. If you feel you need it then ask. I'd suggest you ask if it's ok to go to see the chiropractor since that has helped you before.

    Please let us know how you're doing!
    4 level ACDF C4-C7 5-2-11, laminectomy & discectomy L4-L5 1/26/12, ALIF L4-5, L5-S1 12/10/12.
  • edited 06/21/2012 - 2:00 PM
    I had the same procedure 11 days ago. I guess I am one of the very lucky ones. I had absolutely NO leg or foot pain when I woke up. I could walk on my toes (but not well) but could not walk on my heels, had lost strength in both legs and though the doctor thought it was a gyn problem, I knew the little leaking problem was from my back, and I was correct. I did get muscular pain in my legs the first week. I think we use them more after surgery and IF our nerves are calmed down and happy then our legs want to work like they used to but they have to 'build up' again. My back is not pain free, and I was told it may never be, but my pain almost always feels like incisional pain, not the same pain I had before. If I move wrong, yes I do feel that old 'electrical shock/knife/cramp/ache pain that I used to get. Today was monumental for me. I bent my knees to pick up something. Then later without thinking to get up from the couch instead of using my hands on the coffee table to help me up (versus the hubs and my daughter both helping me up just a few days ago) I had a coke in my hand and didn't touch a thing and stood up. When I got to the kitchen and realized what I had done - I couldn't believe it! It's been a long, long, long time since I could do that. I know that right now I'm very lucky and I hope I can keep the patience to keep it going. I want to go back to work NOW, but that's not going to happen, even though I've already proven to myself that I could do so.

    I'm really really afraid of infections. I had a 102 fever a couple days after surgery, and was reassured that they pumped so many antibiotics into me before, during and after surgery, that it was not an infection in my incision - and even my husband took a picture to assure me it looked just fine (I was shocked - first time I had seen it!). My doctor also described my incision a lot smaller than what it ended up being and that will be one of my questions to him next Friday. Why did he have to make a bigger incision? I know from experience that a lot of times, I suppose to put our minds at ease, a doctor will not quite tell us everything so we won't be so scared. I feel like I got a mixture - he said I wouldn't be able to sit more than 20 min for the first 2 weeks. Absolutely not true but that may be because I normally sit all day to work, I don't know. My incision is twice as long as he said it would be. I was scared Monday when they changed my medication to a milder one, but knowing how they work, I knew to call before I ran out, so it wasn't like I HAD to start on the milder meds immediately. I decided I'd only take the strong ones if I really need them and I did Monday and into Tuesday. Now the milder ones are working fine and I can take them every 4-6 hours - and I'm getting away with 5-6 hours - which amazes me. Over the weekend, the stronger med I could still take every 3 hours, and I can remember an hour after taking it saying Oh God how much longer till I can take another one. He said the first week would be rough and it was, but to me so far, it was worth it.

    If I had zit looking things on my incision, this is just me, but I would demand that someone see me. That's not medical advice, that's just how I am, and also is reflective of another situation that I'm not going to talk about here - it happened to someone else, and this is a very public forum, so I want to be respectful of that family.

    I am curious about PT - he said he would put me on PT, but I forget at how many weeks. I was told to do absolutely nothing for 2 weeks but my body says get up and walk a little now and then, so I do. My body says sit up a little, so I do. I don't do any lifting, bending over, and sadly, I don't even pick up my grandbabies, which is killing me - but soon!

    Please let us know how you are doing - I'll be following your story, because I'm a few weeks behind you - although my really horrific pain didn't come until a week before surgery, not that it wasn't bad before, I just didn't know how horrific it could be. Mine got worse 8 days after an ESI - that being said, I know lots of people who have benefited greatly from them, and since I could have one, I'm glad I tried it, and glad it did no more damage than it did.

    There is another topic - neuro or ortho surgeon. My opinion will always be, I just want a very talented, skilled surgeon. Usually the ones that are know they are and come with an attitude. Mine has one. And that's okay. At the end when I pay my bill, I'll shake his hand and thank him for his surgical services. I'd rather have a very good surgeon with a bad attitude then an okay surgeon with a great bedside manner - because when we go under their knife - for this stuff - it is the rest of our lives we are entrusting them with!

    Good luck and I'll be praying!
    I am who I am!
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