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Looks like surgery is in my future - L5-S1 disc herniation

buffyangel299bbuffyangel299 Posts: 2
edited 07/04/2015 - 12:15 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I'm new to these forums and I figured I share my story (so far). I'm 28 and I've had back problems going on 10 years now. I likely got the initial injury playing sports, but it's been so long I can't remember a particular incident. My back pain used to be an episode every 1-2 years of severe pain/back spasms for a few weeks but pain free the rest of the time. That changed two years ago , when I had an episode, but after the initial few weeks of severe pain, I still had lingering pain (though not as severe). Eventually I went to a chiropractor, but that didn't help much and I kind of learned to live with the pain. A few months ago, I started having a little bit of pain in my right leg that seemed to be related to the back pain but it wasn't that bad, so I mostly ignored it. About a month ago, I sneezed and that triggered another episode. I decided enough was enough and to see an orthopedist. He suspected a herniated disc so he sent me for an MRI. Sometime between the appointment and the MRI, my pain shifted from my right side (where it's been for 10 years) to my left with pain and a weird pinching sensation down my left leg (stopping at the knee). The MRI results showed a large herniation at L5-S1, so my ortho sent me to a spine specialist within the same practice. Some of the relevant MRI results are below:

"At L5-S1 the disc is desiccated and demonstrates a large central herniation, with severe spinal canal and bilateral lateral recess stenosis. There is impingement of the descending S1 nerve roots. There is mild bilateral foraminal stenosis, with slight abutment of the exiting L5 nerve roots."

I met with the spine specialist (orthopedic surgeon) this week. Weirdly enough, my pain is actually not very severe right now, back to normal pain levels. (The doctor was amazed that I am up and around based on the MRI.) The doctor said he is suggesting surgery because, based on the MRI, there is the chance that I could have another episode that could cause cauda equine syndrome. He said that may never happen, but because my spinal canal is so compressed, he is worried that there is a chance it could.

He gave me a couple of options for surgery -- microdisectomy or fusion. However, he was leaning towards fusion, since he doesn't think a microdisectomy will fix my back pain. He says the disc is degenerated and cutting out a chuck of it won't make it any better. The doctor suggested surgery sooner rather than later, to decrease the chance that something bad happens before we relieve the compression.

I definitely want to get a second opinion before making any decisions. I made an appointment for a couple of weeks from with an orthopedic surgeon at a local spine center for a second opinion. I'm also thinking of sending my MRI results to another local, but internationally known, university hospital neurosurgical spine center as well.

Anyways, I'd appreciate any advice/tips/information any of you guys can provide...I'm a little freaked out by everything right now. And if anyone's interested, I can post some pictures from my MRI...I feel like they look pretty cool :)


  • LizLiz Posts: 8,835
    Please take the time to read this post and refer to it when you have questions

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    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • Surgical opinion is a good thing to do. It helps reaffirm that surgery is necessary and that the general concensus regarding surgery type and approach is necessary.
    Cauda Equina Syndrome is a surgical emergency, and if you experience sudden increased or spreading pain, loss of bladder and or bowel control, increased or new numbness , especially in the areas where a saddle would come into contact with your body, you need to contact your surgeon right away. Risks of permanent damage can result if the thecal sac is compressed too long.

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