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AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:19 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Sorry if this is in the wrong place but I need help.

I am scheduled for a 360 spinal fusion for my lower lumbar and am wondering as the date draws nearer if I am making the correct choice.

I have three young children and although I want to be normal and not be in pain all the time I am terrified of surgery and the what ifs,(what ifs being what if I don't make it and leave my children motherless).

A little history after seeing many doctors, just trying to figure out what was wrong and being told by my pain management doc that there was nothing further he could do, I found a orthopedic spine specialist, who I really feel comfortable with, but he is younger (which I know has it's advantages) he is not board certified but is board eligible, he is associated with many professional associations and is fellowship trained. Again I really like him and am very comfortable with him but it is coming to crunch time, and I just need to be told that I am not making the biggest mistake of my life here.

Please help and please be nice.

Sorry for the long post.


  • "Not board certified" makes bells and whistles go off in my head, seriously. Being associated with professional associations means nothing. What is his fellowship training in? Unless it's spine surgery, that person may as well be a mailman. Many people get 2nd opinions as a way of verifying that that specific surgery is the right course of action for you, and that you are a good surgerical candidate.

    I'm not at all saying you're making a mistake and I am in no way qualified to say that b/c I don't know your history and I'm not a medical professional. Still, going into a surgery as serious as a fusion with all these doubts isn't wise. Spend some more time getting educated about your condition (why are they recomending a fusion?), what the surgery is exactly, what the expected outcome/prognosis is, etc., etc.

    If you've done all your research and feel FULLY confident in your doctor, then don't worry about making a mistake in judgement. Many people have these done daily and are fine. Lumbar surgery, while considered major surgery,is not life-threatening. Your spinal cord ends several levels up so while there are some neurological risks, the risk of paralysis or death is incredibly low.

    Again, please do lots of research so you feel like you are making an educated decision. Except in emergent cases, spine surgery is elective - it's your choice. Read around the forums more for some personal experiences, but please read the other technical info too, here on Spine-Health to learn more. :)

  • Second Opinion..... Ask your PCP for a referral to get a second opinion. You will need to get your MRI and xray films and take them with you to avoid any delays.

    Just curious- what is your diagnosis and how many levels will be fused?

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  • I basically agree with Hopey her, except that some younger board eligible surgeons with spinal surgery fellowship may have to be observed for as much as two years before they are allowed to take the board exam. Then they have to wait for the result, so there is another lag time. Find out exactly where he stands, how many similar surgeries had he performed, etc. Also, get some information about him from other doctors, nurses, and patients if possible. It is good that you trust him, and being young he may be familiar with the newest techniques, but experience and mostly skill are very important.

    Go get a second or even a third opinion, and see if you still feel most comfortable with him, then make your decision. Don't rush into anything, most likely this is not an emergency surgery you need.

    Good luck,

    Kin ;) :) ;) :)
  • I am having my L4-L5-S1 fused due to herniations and severe nerve impingement. He is fellowship trained in spines and goes to lots of seminars. He has been doing surgery for the spine for the past 3 1/2/4 years and everyone I have talked to , my pcp, and the staff in his office says he is great.

    As I said in my previous post he is board eligible. He is also the fifth doctor I have been to but the first that offered surgery, most others said I needed or would need it, but were not in the right profession. In regards to seeing a another doc I just do not know if it is foreseeable as my condition has progressively gotten worse. I am afraid if I don't have it done then I may have permanent nerve damage.

    Again, thank you for the great responses.

    P.S. My nerves are so jangled that I guess I am searching for that sign and for more support as I know that my hubby wants me to go through it.
  • Gina,
    2 level fusion is not a joke.It's not learned at seminars.With all due respect to your doctor,3 year is not very impressive when it comes to spine surgery.At least for my spine!There are many spinal surgical procedures which means he hasn't necessarily done many fusions.Just keep in mind that fusion is an irreversible procedure.
    Call him and ask "Dr.X,how many ppl you have fused?",simple as that.
    Whatever you decide,good luck!

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  • Gina,

    I agree with the others here. Spinal fusion should be a last resort procedure. Fusing for just disc herniations seems a little extreme to me. Do you have DDD (Disc Degenerative Disease)? Do you have loss of disc height? Again, fusion surgery for a disc herniation is a very aggressive approach. You may be better off starting with a discectomy and a partial laminectomy. You really need to see a board certified surgeon (maybe see an NS if your current doctor is not one) for another opinion.

    I am recovering from a 2 level fusion at the same levels, and I only opted for the procedure because one of my discs was completely gone and the other one was following the same path. Fusion surgery is a much longer recovery period and IMHO you should determine if there are other less invasive procedures you can do.

    I wish you all the best in your decision.

  • Hi Gina, I understand your nerves. I have them too. My surgery is scheduled for Aug 5, and I am already a wreck. I watched a fusion surgery video today, and that was a mistake, don't do it. I too am questioning my decision to have fusion L4-5. My surgeon too is board eligible, not board certified. (I was led to believe that it is just as good?). If this was March, I would have been ready to go cause I was in sooo much pain, but I actually feel a little better now after 4 months of water therapy. I still am limping when I walk from the pain down my left leg and my back crunches whenever I move. I am afraid to have surgery and afraid not to have surgery. What if it gets suddenly worse again? I don't think I'll ever feel fully committed to my decision. I just keep praying about it. I do know my surgeon is the best this town has to offer, but there may be better at UCSF or UC Davis, but then there is the commute and I am pretty much on my own in this, except for my teenagers. So, well I guess this isn't helpful, but just know you are not the only one questioning your decision. A second opinion might make you feel a lot better, even though it may be a time consuming process to get it, perhaps it would be worth it. Take care, and good luck with your decision. Sue
  • Hi Gina & Cali Sue as well,
    Yes i agree that a second opinion is a good idea and of all that has been said.
    Now I also want to add that it is also important to trust your gut instinct with your surgeon.
    7 yrs ago I was sent to 'THE best of the best" and had a laminectomy/discectomy. I went in for 4 days and stayed for 4 weeks. :jawdrop: I didn't like or feel comfortable with this Dr but everyone kept telling me how wonderful he was. I should have listened to MYSELF not everyone else.

    This time around I saw a different surgeon and from the first word I knew he was perfect, just the Dr I wanted to be operating on me. I went in to see him with an A4 sheet of questions and he very patiently answered each one. :) Yes he was qualified etc and he was younger then most but I now know I made the right choice and I couldn't be happier with it.
    So listen to yourself as much as everyone else.
    Blessings Sara
  • How do you feel about the surgeon? Are you comfortable with him? I had a doctor that is young, spine ortho, board certified. I could be wrong but I think that being board eligible is that they have fulfilled the requirements (hours and such) to sit for the boards. Check with the organization that gives the designation and see exactly what it means. I also asked my surgeon how many fusions he and done and he said hundreds. I was comfortable with him and only heard good things from the hospital staff when I called around and asked about him.
    I know how you feel regarding the mortality. I was a wreck when I had my fusion for the same reason. I wanted everything to be OK for my kids. If you ever need to talk about all that feel free to PM me. I spent many sleepless nights worrying about that.
    Good luck with your decision. Making the decision was the hardest part for me.
  • I do feel really comfortable with him and he has done hundreds of fusions from what his nurse said.

    Yes, along with the herniations I have DDD, and some instability (walk with cane), nerves are severely impinged (can't even walk to the mailbox without leg and foot swelling) and there is some loss of height in both disc segments. So all those combined I opted for the fusion rather than starting a downward spiral with the other options (he said if I had a discectomy I would be back in the next year or so anyway)

    I am young (30 1/2) and a mother and just want to have "my" life back now not later.
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