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What's next after DDD diagnosis and doctors suggesting fusion of L4-L5 and L5-S1?

I have severe Degenerative Disc Disease on L4-L5 and L5-S1 discs.  I have had a laminectomy that provided no relief and 5 epidurals with no relief.  My surgeon ordered a Discogram and it exasperated everything and made my pain jump from a usual 5-6 to 7-8 and added pain down my left leg whereas before it was only right leg.  The discogram shows both discs are torn from the nucleus in multiple spots.  I just had my first of two rhizotomy (right side) on L3,L4 and L5.  The left side is next week.  I know the rhizotomy is not a solution it's just buying me time if it works.  

My question to everyone that has gone through this is what to expect next?  

If the rhizotomy works I don't want to have to go every 6-18 months to have the procedure again, especially since I am reading it may take a month or more to be effective.   I'm only 41 and I feel like life as I knew it is now over.  I'm gaining wait because I get zero activity and am in constant debilitating pain. One of my doctors even suggested that I may consider going on disability.  That really depressed me.  It's like he was saying I had no hope for any kind of life going forward.

I've been lucky that my office has been very lenient with me over the past year and has not fired me yet (FMLA protection has ran out).  

My surgeon says that eventually I will need fusion on L4-L5 and L5-S1.  I'm really scared of this procedure due to it being two levels and it will redistribute the load above and below the fusion and possibly cause other problems in a few years.  

About 5 years ago I was skiing in Tahoe and an older lady was taking a refresher class with me and we talked and she explained she was in her late 70's and that she had completed a successful stem cell therapy on both of her knees in Germany.  I have never forgotten that conversation and it keeps me up thinking maybe there might be a better cure than fusion in the near future or perhaps I could travel and get stem cell therapy in Germany or Japan.  (They offer to harvest the cells here in Houston and fly you to Mexico to do the therapy but I'm not to sure about going to Mexico for this sort of thing.)  I realize a lot of people are against it if the US has not approved it but I still go back to the 70 year old on the ski slopes.  Maybe there's hope...

Anyway, I sure could use some encouragement and guidance during these tough times from people that understand the pain.  The family doesn't get it, I even sometimes get the feeling from comments that they think the pain is in my head and I use it as an excuse.  


  • hello, sgentry!

    it's hard enough to be in constant pain when you do have emotional support!!  i'm sorry your family is adding to your struggles by minimizing/expressing disbelief about what you are going through. 

    i can understand your reluctance to commit to procedures that have a time limit on how long the benefits are expected to last.  i also had minimal success with the epidurals, and had l4-s1 fusion surgery after exhausting most of the standard conservative methods (never had the rhizotomy).  the science behind stem-cell therapy is so fascinating to me--you'll have to let everyone know if you do decide that's the option you're going to take!!

    i'd like to welcome you to spine-health!  please click on the following link for some helpful information to get you started!

    welcome to spine-health 

    Kimmy72, Spine-health Moderator
    Firm believer in PMA!
  • SGentrySSGentry Houston, TXPosts: 2
    Kimmy72 did the fusion provide relief from the pain?  I'm two weeks out from the rhizotomy and very little relief from the pain.  The doctor that performed the rhizotomy stated that if I don't already have some relief that I probably won't but to give it two more weeks and if I get no relief I'll have to proceed with the fusion.
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  • hvillshhvills Suzhou, ChinaPosts: 971


    I can relate to your frustration and comments about the family not understanding... an alternative is to use this forum... I know I do... and there are lots of people here who can relate to your issues.

    I also have DDD and I have found that fusion surgery has helped me get my life back.  My back is not what it was when I was 25... but for sure the horrible and crippling pain I had before surgery is nearly 100% gone.   The recovery is a long and tough road... but I can say the surgery was certainly worth it.  Having DDD I don't know what the future holds... but for now I happy with where I'm at.

    Harry - 65 year old male...
    PLIF L4-L5-S1 due to disc degeneration... May 23, 2013
    PLIF L5-S1 due to failed fusion and broken screw... Jan 19, 2015
    Microdiscectomy, decompression L3-L4 due to herniated disc... Jan 19, 2015
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