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Old 08-18-2008, 09:01 AM   #1
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Scared of surgery (L5/S1 herniation)

Hello all! I am trying to decide whether surgery is the best thing for me. I have had back pain on/off (mostly ON) for the past 3 years. There was no specific injury, however, I can relate it back to moving in 2005. I have tried dealing with it the best I can, but nowadays when the pain hits, it's really bad. Plus, I was starting to feel some pain down my left leg. I was referred to PT and completed that over the course of 2 months and the back pain was better, but whenever I did exercises or movements with the L leg, it's like it aggravated the back pain all over again. I was then sent for an MRI which revealed disk herniation. I was then referred to a neurosurgeon who suggested surgery after being in the exam room for about 3-5 mins (and after waiting to be seen for 2 hours. My appnt was at 3:30. i did not get seen until 5:30...CRAZY!!!). I felt somewhat overwhelmed that that was the first and only thing he suggested, and now I'm trying to decide if i should do it or not. On the "good days" I can do normal activities, but on the bad days, I feel like curling up and withdrawing from humanity altogether. The surgeon told me that I should be able to go back to work almost immediately, only with restrictions regarding showering, however, from the posts I have read and from other people with similar herniation, they have been out of work for weeks and are still having issues. I don't want to put myself at risk for more problems, or worse pain. A friend suggested that I try pain management before considering the surgery. I think I will do that, but I hate to miss so much work. Any advice???

 
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Old 08-18-2008, 09:48 AM   #2
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Re: Scared of surgery (L5/S1 herniation)

Hi

I would be very wary of a doctor who suggested surgery so easily!!

There are various other treatments out there that you may want to try first.

I found acupunture helped with my sciatic pain that was chronic down my left leg.

To me surgery is a last resort. Infact my diagnosis is have a 3 level fusion or live with the pain and i won't have surgery till i am literally down on my knees but that's just me.

Best wishes and i hope you find something that helps.

Last edited by sherry1; 08-18-2008 at 09:49 AM.

 
Old 08-18-2008, 11:05 AM   #3
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Re: Scared of surgery (L5/S1 herniation)

WAIT!!!!! Snowsweetie1, Don't do it yet!!

You have got to get a second opinion. I just had an L5-S1 lam, you may have noticed my thread "...2 weeks out and still in pain," so I've been through exactly what you are going through. I saw several surgeons before I found one I liked and trusted. It's very important that you believe in your doctor or you wont believe in your recovery!

It sounds to me like you have a slight herniation that, at times, irritates a nerve root. For me, it was whenever I stood, the pressure pushed the disc out far enough to impact the nerve root and cause pain from my lower back, to my hamstring, back behind my knee was particularly painful, my calf felt over-stretched much like my hamstring, and foot ached constantly. When I finally found the right doctor, he ordered a mylegram, something you may want to consider...I won't lie to you, it is a fairly painful procedure that involves a lumbar puncture, but the detail that the doc can see is far greater than an MRI.

Also, your surgeon is full of it. A good friend of mine also had the same surgery we're talking about. He had no complications at all but he still was not able to get back to his desk job for 2 weeks. He spent those weeks in bed, so don't believe it is quick and easy with little to no recovery. Surgery is rough. They are in there digging, scraping, cutting bones and discs, separating if not cutting muscles...it will hurt...even if it's done perfectly.

Not everyone has complications like did...btw I'm still in tremendous pain, even worse than before the surgery, but right now, we're hoping that is just leftover nerve irritation...They say the longer the nerve has been irritated, the longer it will take to calm down. I am going in for epidural steroid injection tomorrow to (hopefully) relax the nerve a little, but there's no guarantees. There is a chance it won't work, and if that's the case, my surgeon says we'll do another mylegram to check again for a re-herniation.

Your surgeon probably didn't mention that 8% re-herniate within the first year.

All I want you to glean from this is that this isn't something to just jump into. Do some research, get second, third, heck even fourth opinions. I was able to work through my pain (and did damn well i might add) for quite a long time before I found an appropriate time to get it taken care of, and a surgeon I could trust who looked at the whole picture. A lot of the surgeons are knife happy...insurance companies pays them tens of thousands for every person they cut...pretty solid motivation to recommend surgery after studying your mri for 3 minutes...dont'cha think?

Sorry so long...I hope i helped. Feel better and don't give up hope. This is definitely a great place to come to for questions, advice, and most importantly support.

 
Old 08-18-2008, 11:11 AM   #4
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Red face Re: Scared of surgery (L5/S1 herniation)

Hello snowsweetie ~

Welcome to the board.

I concur with Sherry. Unless there is an emergency situation, surgery should always be considered as a last resort. There are always risks with any surgery, but back surgery carries its own special risks and perils. A nerve can be nicked, pain can be originating from an unanticipated spot, you can develop scar tissue that causes more pain than the situation for which you were operated on...and the list goes on.

Second, one should never have elective surgery without getting a second opinion, and perhaps more.

One should not have elective surgery until one has tried all other conversative treatments.

Herniated discs CAN heal on their own. As a matter of fact, the statistics show that five years down the road, there is no appreciable difference in pain levels between those that had surgery and those that used more conservative treatmets. This is particularly true if there is back pain rather than pain running down the leg.

I would suggest that you look for a fellowship-trained spinal specialist. This can be either an orthopedic spinal surgeon or a neurosurgeon that has additional specialized training in issues of the spine and back. S/he will spend the majoity of her/his practice dealing with spine and back patients. You could also look for a physiatrist that works specifically with back patients. This specialty works to get you back on your feet using various treatments other than surgery. These can include anti-inflammatory medications, epidural injections, nerve blocks, etc. depending on what is the cause of your pain.

Do not agree to this surgery without exploring all your options. Post with your questions and concerns. Lots of us spineys will be happy to help you!!

xx MM

 
Old 08-18-2008, 11:33 AM   #5
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Re: Scared of surgery (L5/S1 herniation)

I am with the rest!
My surgeon sent through PT, tried RX Aleve, ESI shots.....everything we could BEFORE surgery. I was bone on bone at that time and he said he would be happy to send any records or MRIs,CTscans,etc...around to whoever I wanted another opinion from because he wanted me to invest myself in this surgery. I say myself because I did the steps to make sure I was compfortable with him doing this and that I would put the work into the recovery.
Is HARD work! I still have good and bad days tho I can say they don't keep me from working anymore.
Get another opinion!!!
Ortho or Neuro just depends on which person you are most comfortable with.
Keep us posted!
Blessings,
Michelle

 
Old 08-18-2008, 12:54 PM   #6
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Re: Scared of surgery (L5/S1 herniation)

I agree with the rest also. I was treated for years by my family physician with medication then I went to my neurosurgeon for my neck. He eventually did surgery on my neck twice but before he would do my back I had had several myelograms, EMG studies, physical therapy, ESI's and medication. I too was bone on bone when I finally had my fusion at L5/S1 this past March and was having constant pain (sciatic) and limiting me in my daily activities. It is a tough surgery so you want to make sure it is what you need. Let us know what you decide and if we can do anything else for you. This board has been a god-send to me.

Take care
Linda

 
Old 08-18-2008, 06:01 PM   #7
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Re: Scared of surgery (L5/S1 herniation)

Just to add another agreement here......get a second opinion, and even a third if the first two do not agree. There are no guarantees that surgery will make you feel better and could actually make you hurt worse. Good luck to you and keep us posted.

Deb

 
Old 08-18-2008, 09:54 PM   #8
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Re: Scared of surgery (L5/S1 herniation)

Go back to work in two weeks? I must be on another planet. I could hardly move after two weeks. I had an L3,L4, L5 laminectomy and discectomy in March. I was ready for the surgery after 3 years of pain that finally got to the point I couldn't deal with the leg pain. I opted to not have a fusion.
I am glad I had the surgery. It has been a rough road and a long healing process. I think the worst thing I deal with now is my leg aches sometimes and it is difficult to deal with. It isn't the nerve being compressed, that was relieved. It is a different kind of pain.
I had several opinions prior to surgery. For me, it was what I wanted. I am far from 100% but at least I don't have that feeling of I cant handle it anymore.

 
Old 08-27-2008, 07:07 AM   #9
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Re: Scared of surgery (L5/S1 herniation)

Quote:
Originally Posted by snowsweetie1 View Post
Hello all! I am trying to decide whether surgery is the best thing for me. I have had back pain on/off (mostly ON) for the past 3 years. There was no specific injury, however, I can relate it back to moving in 2005. I have tried dealing with it the best I can, but nowadays when the pain hits, it's really bad. Plus, I was starting to feel some pain down my left leg. I was referred to PT and completed that over the course of 2 months and the back pain was better, but whenever I did exercises or movements with the L leg, it's like it aggravated the back pain all over again. I was then sent for an MRI which revealed disk herniation. I was then referred to a neurosurgeon who suggested surgery after being in the exam room for about 3-5 mins (and after waiting to be seen for 2 hours. My appnt was at 3:30. i did not get seen until 5:30...CRAZY!!!). I felt somewhat overwhelmed that that was the first and only thing he suggested, and now I'm trying to decide if i should do it or not. On the "good days" I can do normal activities, but on the bad days, I feel like curling up and withdrawing from humanity altogether. The surgeon told me that I should be able to go back to work almost immediately, only with restrictions regarding showering, however, from the posts I have read and from other people with similar herniation, they have been out of work for weeks and are still having issues. I don't want to put myself at risk for more problems, or worse pain. A friend suggested that I try pain management before considering the surgery. I think I will do that, but I hate to miss so much work. Any advice???
I am now in my 5th post operative day following L4-L5 and L5-S1 discectomy. My pain is less severe than before the surgery but I still have a significant amount of left leg pain. However, the pain in my hips, but and right leg are gone - thankfully. It is obvious that you need to seek a 2nd and if need be a 3rd opinion. I experienced severe hip and leg pain for 9 months and tried everything from PT to multiple ESI pain injections with no success. The bottom line is that if the herniated disc is resting on a nerve root and can not return to its proper place with the help of conservative treatment -surgery may be your best option. With that said you must try all possible conservative approaches prior to going forward with surgery. Also, consider a EMG - nerve conduction test to pin point the source of your pain. Spine surgery is serious stuff and leaves you with few options if your surgery is unsuccessful or your pain rears its ugly head down the road. Pain sucks, especially radicular leg pain. I made correcting this a priority in my life as I was not my self and much less productive during the injury period - both professionally and personally. So, get more opinions and research your problem. The better educated you are the better the chance for a successful outcome. Good Luck!!!!!

 
Old 08-27-2008, 08:40 AM   #10
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Re: Scared of surgery (L5/S1 herniation)

Just a word of caution be very careful in deciding to have surgery. Get several opinions and make sure you are comfortabe with your surgeon and more importantly his PA. The PA will be the one you talk to before and after surgery and having a private line to reach him or her is helpful. I am 5 weeks out of a 3 level laminectomy and a few smaller hemis. I am doing fine. My original pain in the butt and legs is gone, however I do have a few small patches of numbness on my thighs. Yes. I would certainly do the surgery again as I can now walk 2mi with no problems and am adding more each day. I think reasonable expectations are important but not to expect to be perfect again like before the back problems began.

patti

 
Old 08-29-2008, 09:29 PM   #11
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Re: Scared of surgery (L5/S1 herniation)

I agree with the other posters in that surgery can be good and bad. I recieved 4 opinions before I made the jump. I went to (in order) my family practice dr, a chiroipractor, a pain specialist, and the surgeon's p.a. The only one that told me no go on the surgery was the chiropractor and my 5,000 bucks and his drx-9000 would fix me up. After two sessions I got rid of him and decided on the surgery. This has been a good choice due to the enormous fragment found during surgery. The spinal decompression would have never worked for this. Either way I definately understand your fears and concerns as I am only 58 hours out of surgery but I must admit, the numbness in the toes and the shooting pains down one calf are completly gone. The only real pain now is both buttocks hurt bad and it feels like someone hit my back with a sledgehammer, but all is well. If you need anyone to talk to about this I will check back. Not an expert but can say i've now done it. The best of luck to you in your decision. The best advice I ever recieved is when all else fails you must trust your instincts.

Tim

 
Old 08-30-2008, 09:27 AM   #12
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Re: Scared of surgery (L5/S1 herniation)

I suggest you get several opinions from fellowship-trained spinal specialists, either othopedic surgeons or neurosurgeons who have additional training in the spine and back and devote their practice to those patients with spine and back issues. Sometimes even when there is agreement on the diagnosis, different surgeons will recommend different procedures. It is important to find a surgeon that you can relate to -- one who will listen to you and respond accordingly.

Remember that except in the case of bladder or bowel involvement or foot drop, disc surgery is considered "elective" and is done primarily for pain relief. Do not have the expectation that it will restore you to the way you once were in your younger, pre-back issues days.

Last edited by mznell; 08-30-2008 at 09:27 AM.

 
Old 08-31-2008, 07:15 PM   #13
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Re: Scared of surgery (L5/S1 herniation)

I just wanted to say Thanks to everyone who has lended advice. I have read all of the postings and will be going for a second opinion soon. I will let everyone know what the outcome of that is. THANKS AGAIN!-snowsweetie1

 
Old 08-31-2008, 08:24 PM   #14
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mznell HB User
Re: Scared of surgery (L5/S1 herniation)

Hey Snowsweetie,

I see you are in LA -- we will all pray for you and your family and friends that the approaching storm will not do you any harm...

Let us know what the next doc says. I saw 8 different docs -- a little excessive I admit,, but I kept hoping someone would come up with a solution to my issues other than fusion. It was interesting though. While all agreed on my diagnosis, the procedure ran the gamit from fusing one level, to 2 docs who said they would fuse 5 levels!! That was shocking to me.

Good luck to you.

xx MM

Last edited by mznell; 08-31-2008 at 08:25 PM.

 
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