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Old 05-02-2012, 12:58 PM   #1
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Severe leg weakness after discectomy

I had a dicectomy a month ago. My L4-L5 large herniation had weakened my left leg so much that I had to walk with a cane Pre-op ! My left calf muscle has shrunk by about 80 % and my right leg is now also very weak altough the pain from the sciatica has subsided.

Standing up I can't bring either leg foward or bend me knees. Dorsiflexion of the foot is also impossible. Right now I would grade my left leg a 1/5 and my right a 2/5.I'm able to walk very slowly with a cane.

Does that degree of leg weakness indicate permanent nerve damage ?

 
Old 05-02-2012, 03:06 PM   #2
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Re: Severe leg weakness after discectomy

There is a possibility of nerve damage but it could just be from the length of non use or the severity of compression damage. Its a common misconception that once nerves are damaged, they don't repair themselves. According to my neurosurgeon, they can take a year or longer to heal, although it may never recover fully, it will heal to some degree. Wait it out and go through all channels of rehabilitation before jumping to any conclusions. I know first hand that once you are past the age of 30, it takes significantly longer to heal after these problems are corrected. Hang in there, and I wish you a speedy recovery.


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Old 05-07-2012, 08:24 PM   #3
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Re: Severe leg weakness after discectomy

My right leg has continued to weaken and is now as weak as my left one. I'm barely able to walk even with a cane. Dorsiflexion is now impossible on both feet. I have atrophy in my left leg and my calf feels like jelly. This had started before surgery but has continued afterwards and I'm starting to have the same problems in my right leg although it's still bigger in size than my left one.

I don't have numbness or a tingling sensation. It's just that my legs are so weak that I can't do basic movement like kicking my calf foward or foot dorsiflexion. I haven't found alot of threads of people experiencing such severe weakness after a discectomy to relieve a large L4 herniation
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L4/L5 discectomy in March 2012.

Last edited by Mstikes; 05-07-2012 at 08:26 PM.

 
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Old 05-07-2012, 08:57 PM   #4
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Re: Severe leg weakness after discectomy

Dude, I really wish I could tell you something different. I had to walk with a can prior to my first surgery, and had lost use of my toes on my right foot, along with my leg being super heavy. Before the second surgery I had to use a can again, but this time the same disc herniated on the left side and was just as bad as the first time. I didn't experience any serious muscle loss like you have so I'm not sure... after my second surgery, my rheumatoid arthritis kicked into overdrive and that has been the biggest battle to date. With muscle loss like that, it almost seems like something else and not related to the disc herniation. Have you consulted the doctor again for any more insight? Usually when there is muscle loss, it comes from not using it, and not from direct pressure on a nerve, but I'm not familiar with muscle loss to any great extent from what I gather. Mine was always minimal, because I was able to use my leg to some degree. Is there pain associated with any of your movements? If not, then it might just be that severe physio therapy would start you in the right direction.

 
Old 05-07-2012, 10:21 PM   #5
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Re: Severe leg weakness after discectomy

The loss of muscle strength from lack of movement is not the same as muscle weakness. The type of weakness it sounds like you are describing is caused by a problem with the nerve signal not reaching the brain.

Each spinal segment contains both motor and sensory nerves. Muscle weakness is the most common symptom of motor nerve damage.

I would suggest you return to your surgeon and ask him what is causing this weakness to continue and worsen post surgery. It might be too early in recovery for it to be better, but if the surgeon decompressed the right nerve, the weakness should not be getting worse. I'm sure it is possible that something else may be causing the weakness, but I can't say what that might be. But I don't think you should wait any longer.

The surgeon can order an EMG/nerve conduction study to learn about the damage. With nerve compression, the sooner it can be treated, the greater the chance for recovery...so I wouldn't wait much longer to bring this up. Be insistent if need be.

This is not what one would consider a customary symptom post surgery. Usually when something worsens post surgery, it is not a good sign and it is worth investigating.

 
Old 05-07-2012, 10:29 PM   #6
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Re: Severe leg weakness after discectomy

[B]Does that degree of leg weakness indicate permanent nerve damage ?[/B]

No. The amount of weakness does not indicate whether damage or temporary or permanent. That will not be known until the nerve is decompressed or freed up and is in a situation where it can function
normally again. Unless the nerve has been completely severed, there is always a chance that it can regenerate.

But, for now, you need to figure out why you have this weakness...what is causing it. It doesn't make sense to me that you cannot lift your leg or bend your knee. Could you do these movements prior to the discectomy?

Was your discectomy minimally invasive or do you have an incision in your back? If your disc ruptured, it is possible that a fragment was not captured during surgery and it is now pressing on the spinal nerve.

 
Old 05-15-2012, 08:27 PM   #7
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Re: Severe leg weakness after discectomy

I'm now 6 weeks post discectomy and both my legs remain very weak making it extremely hard to walk even with a cane. What's more worrying is that my right leg has started to shake significantly below the knee for the last few days.

I have am EMG scheduled in 10 days but I'm getting really worried seeing that my situation seems to be worsening daily now with the leg trembling and I don't see what my surgeon could do in the meantime ?
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L4/L5 discectomy in March 2012.

Last edited by Mstikes; 05-15-2012 at 08:29 PM.

 
Old 05-16-2012, 12:27 PM   #8
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Re: Severe leg weakness after discectomy

Do you have a neurologist that has been treating you? Is the neurologist doing the EMG, or someone else? I would try to get in sooner to see the neurologist, if possible. You could also call the surgeon and ask for suggestions.

 
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