Join Date: Dec 2004
Re: I have a Major Dicision to Make
It's okay to not want surgery, but don't let an abnormal fear of fixing something that needs repair keep you on track for continuing problems.
First, as you know, both ortho and Neuro surgeons work on backs, but may a veteran of 8 spine surgeries who has dealt with temporary paralysis and is now walking and doing with 10 levels of spine fused, I want to offer some recommendations for your consideration before you jump in any direction. I have an old post on the board, you can find by using the advance search feature, entitled "how to find a spine specialist in your local area". A spine specialist can be either ortho or neuro, but is far more specialized and experienced in the spine than a general ortho or neuro.
After I was paralyzed, I learned the difference, and searched my states database for those ortho's and neuro's who had completed spine fellowships of 1-2 years, and who had listed their state licenses as spine specialists. Using our state's database and other doctor finding type sites I was able to find out if they actually practiced full time on just the spine or were "general" ortho and neuros who just listed spines as a speciality. I also asked when I phone their offices if that particular doc took patients for anything other than spines.
It took me several weeks to find the right one, and I actually saw about 10-12 doc's in that time, so I felt like I was making the rounds, but who knows, if I had been lucky I would have found the right doc on the first visit and cancelled the others.
The reason I encourage you to find yourself a good spine specialist who meets your criteria, such as whether you want one who treats the patients for pain even after surgery or do they refer patients off to pain management doc's. Other things to consider, do they read the films you carry or do they just take the radiologists reports, do they mind answering all the questions you have and especially are they offering you the latest options such as artifical disc replacement or Dyneses, do they spend more than 3 minutes with patients, etc. Address those things that you want in a doctor. But, research options available so you can be your own best advocate.
It wasn't until I found a spine specialist that I learned that had my last herniation been repaired within 6 months of severely compressed nerves, full recovery was an excellent chance, but it dropped to 75 percent at 9 months and I was past that, but it would drop to 50 percent chance of full recovery at a year. My general ortho and neuro's had not told me that, and while I didn't want surgery, I would have consider that information had I known it increased my chance of not ever getting rid of the pain and/or the numbness. I was lucky and left only with the numb toes, but we need FULL information to make good choices.
General ortho's and neuros usually offer us the PT, the injections, maybe discectomy or the rf burning (can't think of the correct name) and finally fusion, but typically cannot offer the artifical disc replacement to let us have the chance of retaining full flexibility and retaining natural spacing, etc so that we might not have more herniations and increase the liklihood of fusions.
BionicWitch has a thread at the top of the page about good news for lots of us and it has the web site which is an excellent source for information. You might find it helpful before deciding for sure what path you will take.
It's never easy unless the pain or nerve damage is so severe that we loose our legs or bodily functions, and I admit that in those cases I no longer fought surgery. However, as much as I did not want surgery any of those times, research, finally having a good specialist who took the time to explain things so I could understand the risks of pros and cons and waiting or trying other options based on the current condition, and having a specialist who worked with me, but was also willing this last time to show me the xrays and point out the changes in the two months since the last visit and say that we cannot wait longer, explain why the ADR with fusions would not work (what I had hung on for FDA to approve) in my case, and be honest enough to show me how close I was to severing my cord and becoming permanently paralyzed.
I hope you will seek out a true spine specialist who dedicates 100% of his practice to the spine and is up on the latest and greatest techiniques. If you do need surgery, may you be as blessed as I am. Although it's been only 9 months since the last surgery, which fused 10 levels, I am able and doing, still maintaining my home, yard, and caring for an ill parent. Am I 100% pain free? No, but some days there's no pain, and very manageable pain the other days. For me, I'm so glad that I did not choose to go strictly pain management route and not correct the problem that created the pain.
Whatever you choose to do, best wishes.