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Discectomy... yes or no?
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Janamaus12303 posted:
On April 24, I was out for a brunch, stood up from the table, and nearly collapsed. My whole body stopped working. My legs wouldn't respond, my back was spasming...

After X-Rays and MRI, the diagnosis was one herniated disc (L4/L5) and a ruptured disc (L5/S1). I was in bed not being able to move more than my arms for 2 weeks.

4 weeks later and I've now had 2 cortisone injections. The injections only went into the herniated disc, as the ruptured disc is apparently not pushing on the nerve, only the L4/L5 disc is. The first injection helped a LOT and got me up and running again, the second injection didn't do much of anything.
Now I can get up, sit up, and walk minor distances. Standing for more than 30 seconds causes severe leg pain and eventually back spams.

The doctors have recommended that if this second cortisone injection doesn't get me back to 100%, I should consider a discectomy. The doctors I've talked to are orthopedic surgeon, so I'm sure they're eager to do the surgery. I have a lot of "pins & needles" sensation in my leg, which is supposedly a good sign.

Prior to this incident, I was highly active and did yoga twice a week, so I had a pretty strong core and back to begin with. I don't think physical therapy at this point would get me back to normal.

What are people's experiences with discectomy? I've read that the success ratio is pretty high.
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bj1208 responded:
hi and welcome to the support group -

I've not had a discectomy done but I have had a Fusion for my L5-S1 which was splintered and was pressing on the nerve root on both sides -

I don't know who told you that the pins and needles is a good sign - these are signs that the disc (whichever one) is pressing on a nerve root -

what i would suggest is that you get a couple of opinions - from both Orthopedic Spine Specialist and Neurosurgeon Spine Specialist -

Surgery should always be your last resort after all other treatment options are done - once you have surgery you cannot go back -

Please keep us posted as to what happens - take care - Joy
 
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Janamaus12303 replied to bj1208's response:
Thank you for your response. The orthopedic specialist who performed the cortisone injection actually told me that the pins and needles were a good sign. She said that it meant the nerve was coming back to life.

I've been getting so many opinions and all are different, it gets really overwhelming. Plus, all of the sudden everyone's a back expert (especially my family).

I was told that I will not the fusion, but that the discectomy would help me a lot. I'm trying to schedule appointments with other doctors and get other opinions.

Thanks again for the response.
 
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dianer01 responded:
Hi,

I had a diskectomy on two levels in May 07 which was the most amazing thing. I was in agony and could hardly walk 3 or 4 steps. I was on IV dilaudid and was still in screaming pain. I had the diskectomy in the afternoon. I was kept lying flat without moving for 24 hours because of a spinal fluid leak but by the morning following the diskectomy I was in tears because of the level of relief of pain I had! I was back to work and an active life in about 3 weeks.

I would be getting a second opinion from a spine specialist either neuro or ortho.

my best to you

di
 
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gidgetsurfs replied to Janamaus12303's response:
HI diane,
I'm sorry to read of your very recent illness.
i'm with joy, as to the pins and needles feeling. please look these symptoms up on the medical websites-take your time, diane, and be thoroughly informed as you proceed down the path.if it was me in your shoes, and there was a procedure to improve my situation....i would do it. 4 sure.
good luck,
gidget
 
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dianer01 replied to gidgetsurfs's response:
Thanks Gidget,

No recent illness here, only full steam ahead...I think you were referring to Janamaus...

thanks for the thoughts though!
 
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Janamaus12303 replied to dianer01's response:
Thank you all for your advice.
I'm making an appointment with a neurosurgeon to get another opinion. I also have a follow-up appointment with my orthopedic surgeon in month.

So, if I still feel I need surgery by that time, perhaps I will be better informed.

How long does it usually take to schedule surgery? Does anyone know? I'm getting married in 10 months and I would really really like to be able to dance at my own wedding

Jana
 
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bj1208 replied to Janamaus12303's response:
hi janamaus - that depends on the surgeon - some can schedule the surgery in as little as a month while others it may take up to 6 months or longer -

this is something that you will have to discuss with the surgeons and make a decision of who you feel comfortable with and trust too -

please keep us posted as to what happens - take care - Joy
 
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Nomaan Ashraf, MD, MBA responded:
Jana,
The most important thing to realize is that a microdiscectomy is typically a 100% elective operation. The reasons to have surgery are of your symptoms of pain are intolerable, negatively impacting your quality of life, and not getting better. Other reasons that people have surgery is if there is worsening weakness in the legs or if the disc is effecting the nerves that control bladder or bowel function, which is rare.

For the majority of people, the symptoms of leg pain from a disc herniation get better with non-surgical treatment within 6-8 weeks. It sounds like you have been symptomatic for about 6 weeks and are still having a lot pain in the legs. This is a reasonable reason to pursue surgery but the decision is 100% in your hands.

Discectomy is typically very good at relieving leg pain from a pinched nerve when performed appropriately. Most people are able to return to most activities without restrictions once they have recovered from surgery.

In regards to how long it takes to get surgery scheduled this really depends on how busy the surgeon is but also is very dependent on how long it takes for your insurance to authorize the operation.

I hope that this helps you make a decision and I hope that you feel better.
 
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Janamaus12303 replied to Nomaan Ashraf, MD, MBA's response:
Thank you so much!!
I've now had 2 cortisone epidural injections (the last one was 12 days ago) and I'm still not back to normal.

I still have quite a bit of pain standing and walking for any extended period of time (standing starts to hurt after about 30 seconds), while walking starts to become painful after about 100 ft).

So many people have suggested chiropractic, but considering how sensitive my lower back is at the moment, I hesitate to have someone mess with that area.

I've scheduled a consult with an orthopedic surgeon and I am getting a second opinion from a neurosurgeon.

Thank you for your feedback. It is much appreciated!
 
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bj1208 replied to Janamaus12303's response:
hi - normally when having the cortisone injections physical therapy is usually prescribed - they tend to go hand-n-hand - the injections will help reduce inflammation and will start to help with the pain -

I would suggest physical therapy - they can gently massage the back area (if tender they won't touch) and get the muscles to relax there are also heat and ice stimulation treatments they can do. physical therapist can also show you the proper exercises to do at home AND they can show you the proper way to walk so that you are not causing the pains to increase.

the surgeon can write the prescription out for physical therapy - just ask -

hope this helps - please keep us posted - take care - Joy
 
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Nickusafret replied to Janamaus12303's response:
Hi Jana, I was looking for others who had a microdiscectomy like me and saw your posts. I hope I am not too late and you are still looking for help with your back pain. I know how frustrating it can be. First a quick history to compare. I retired from the USAF in 2007, as an aircraft mechanic, at 47. I had a few incidents during my career that helped to injure my back but as always the military doctors dont like to do much to help. Just push Motrin and send you back to work. About 2003 or so the pain in my low and mid back became worse and worse. I found little relief or help from the medical staff as active duty.
I finally got to see an orthopedic specialist. He is highly respected and recommended here in Wichita Ks. After lots of tests, MRI etc he recommended an immediate discectomy to L2/L3. He had performed many of them and according to him I would get great relief and would "be leaping off the table" after a few weeks of PT.
He got me in pretty quickly about 2 months after my determination for surgery. The surgery was performed with only two cuts in my left side, (leaving scars about 3-4" each) I was told everything went perfectly after I woke up. However the pain I was in after surgery was EXCRUCIATING!! I mean screaming and moaning crying pain!! I am a pretty tough guy, and can grin and bear it pretty well. Nothing they gave me touched the level of pain I was in following the surgery. That night I did not sleep at all the pain was so bad. I asked if they had screwed something up and they of course said no, everything is fine.
Well I had twice the time of PT because I wasn't getting better. I still had a LOT of pain. Xrays taken showed everything was still in place though no new MRI have been done. The surgeons answer was "Some people dont take surgery very well, good luck." I have been fighting with the ins co. to get new ones but thanks to Obama they keep denying it. The VA just shrugs their shoulders. I finally got to see a pain management specialist and have been on morphine since summer 2009. Tried injections but couldnt take the pain and the doctor said the area was too sensitive and declined to proceed. I am now up to 160mg of morphine per day, 4 x 7.25 percoset per day. With little relief. I cant even stand to do dishes for more than 10 minutes and my back feels like it is being stabbed with a dozen hot knives. The pain has also spread to my mid back and neck. Xrays showed increased disc degeneration in almost all discs of the spine. My neck pain has gotten terrible with headaches and severe pain and my low back has only gotten worse.
To make matters even worse after surgery I gained at least 50 lbs which I have been struggling to get off but with the pain and decreased ability to exercise for long periods it is a never ending yo-yo. I talked to one of my past GP docs a year ago and he said he would not have recommended me for the surgery. Too bad I didnt see him before then, but he was deployed to Gulf. He told me he had little faith in the microdiscectomy and it's success. It is too hit or miss.
If I had to do it again I would not have the surgery. Oh and if you have disc damage DO NOT go to a chiropractor for it, it is a waist of time and money. They wont do you any good. I am fighting now to see a neurologist to get more MRI's done and to get more PT. Right now I cant even work, I cant do the jobs I used to as a air craft mechanic. My life is drastically changed for the worse. So please really get more opinions before getting this surgery. If you want to dance on your wedding day I doubt you will be able to even walk very much if you have the trouble I had. Some do find relief, but it is a crap shoot from all I have read, and others I have talked to. Good luck!
 
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Nickusafret replied to Nomaan Ashraf, MD, MBA's response:
Dr. Ashraf,
I have read many of your replies and and would like your opinion on my back pain maybe you can give me a clue as to what course I should take. I know you cant diagnose on line etc I would not expect that. But, let me just give you a quick break down and pick your brain.
In 2007 I retired from the Air Force after 21 years. IN 1990 I had suffered a fall from a jet aircraft on my back and had some low and mid back pain after. The Xrays done showed some herniation. The Air Force med staff then did little other than tell me to use heat or ice take these motrin and flexoril and go back to work. I did and grinned and bared the pain. I worked out a lot then and was strong and still young in my late 20's various things during my career continued to aggravate my back pain, including severe foot and leg pain.
By 2000 I was 40 and the pain worse but still manageable. I had been diagnosed with mild to moderate degeneration in the joints of my toes and fingers, thumbs and low back. All of which were painful but still not too bad.

In 2003 I received the full series of Anthrax vaccinations, immediately after the first injections I got hives all over my body and my joints felt like they were on fire and being jammed with hot steel rods. I reproted the reactions and got the shoulder shrug from the PA's who saw me. The next 3 injections all had the same reactions, including high fever and back pain. By my 7 and final in the series my entire body and lower back felt like my body had been hit by a truck. During the deployment to the Persian Gulf the pain in my low back and joints left me exhausted, weak, and in tears every time I tried to sleep.
By 2007 I could take it no longer and retired from the Air Force. In 2008 I was told the degeneration and pain, had gotten more severe I got to see a back surgeon and after MRI/tests etc, he recommended immediate microdiscectomy at L2/L3 that I would get immediate relief. I told him my mid back was also on fire the pain horrible, he said low back first then we'll look at the mid back. I had surgery 2 months later and the post surgical pain was EXCRUCIATING! NO pain meds would touch it. In recovery I didnt sleep for two days the pain was so incredible.
After 8 weeks of PT I was still in a lot of pain. The surgeon recommended another 8 weeks. Still little improvement. Xray of the discectomy should everything still in place. Still my no improvement. Injections was suggested but found the pain to severe to tolerate. I have been seeing a pain specialist about 2 years now, am up to 160 mg of MS Contin, 100 mg of percoset, 200 mg of celebrex and muscle relaxers. I get very little relief from the pain, bladder function is erratic, I go too frequently. Bowel control is fine but heavy constipation and increased pain in low back till I go to the bathroom. Still severe low back pain, leg weakness, insomnia, mid back pain increased and neck pain and headaches. Xrays showed increased deterioration from neck to low back at more points than I can name here. Fighting with insurance to get new MRI done for last 6 months. Keep getting denied, thanks Obama!

Do you know of any study or info about the Anthrax vaccinations causing increased deterioration of the joints and disc material in the spine? I had read some possible connections 4-5 years ago but then the VA went into deny mode, and we get the usual government "ah we don't know anything about that" answer. I have talked to a few Vets who got the shots and have had similar reactions, but it is not getting reported correctly. Have you heard anything in the Med Community? Is it possible the Anthrax Vaccine or one of the others could have accelerated the disc material loss? I am told my neck discs are very badly deteriorated. It is painful to hold my head up without leaning support. I cant stand to do dishes or cook for more than ten minutes the pain gets so intense. Would love to get your opinions. Thank you.
Nick
 
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Yolande responded:
Hi

A few weeks ago I had a similar experience. i woke up the Thursday morning with severe pain, pins and needles and couldn't walk or sit properly.

I went to an orthopedic and to another doctor for a second opinion, just to find out that I need to go for a discectomy.

It is 2 weeks after my back operation and I can sit, walk and lie down. The pain is also much better.
 
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bj1208 replied to Yolande's response:
HI Yolande - welcome to the support group -

first - it's great you are doing so well after your surgery. Hope and Pray you continue great recovery!!

second - the response you are posting to is from posts of 1-2 years ago. Not sure if some of the members are still around.

But we do appreciate letting us know how u are doing - keep us posted on your recovery. it's always great to hear success stories!!
Take care~~

~~ Joy ~~