Re: Decision Time
It is always a good idea to get several opinions before proceeding with surgery. I couldn't tell from your post if you have been going through conservative treatments prior to seeing surgeon # 1. What is your diagnosis and how long have you been having "back" problems?
Surgeons operate at different speeds. My neighbor is an anesthesiologist and I have talked with him quite a lot about various surgeries. Several years ago when I began contemplating my first spine surgery, I asked him about a surgeon who worked at the same hospital and asked him if he was familiar with him. His only comment was "He works fast."
At the time, I didn't really understand his comment, so he explained a bit more. Obviously you don't want someone who operates faster than his abilities and makes mistakes...but, there are real advantages to a surgeon who works quickly.
My current spine surgeon was a trauma surgeon for ten years before he decided to train to be a spine surgeon. I think his past experience is what makes him so talented as a spine surgeon.
One never knows what problems may arise during the operation. If this surgeon #1 routinely takes 6 hours to perform a one level fusion, I can't imagine how long the patient would be on the table if there were some unexpected findings.
My last surgery was a 3 level revision. I had been having pain that had everyone mystified as everything looked clear and open on the MRIs. When he got in there, he discovered that the facets at L3 had worn away to little nubs, leaving me with a lot of instability....He did a bit of reconstruction at this level, removed the hardware at L4-L5 because it was not compatible with the new, then he performed the fusion and attached pedicle screws and longer rods so that I was connected from L3 to S1. I was on the table 2 hours 15 minutes total.
I do know this is a bit faster than most 3 level fusions...but I really can't imagine how it could take surgeon #1 six hours....
It would be possible to do a laminectomy without addressing the disc problems, but I would assume your herniated discs are contributing to the pain issues. Do you have stenosis? If you are having a fusion from the posterior, part of the lamina would have to be removed in order to gain access to the discs. If the surgery were done from the anterior or from the side, the lamina could be left intact and avoided, unless it is contributing to nerve compression...in which case you'd have to have the surgery from the back...(at least this is how I understand it...but obviously none of us are doctors!)
Are you seeing an orthopedic spine surgeon or a neurosurgeon or one of each?