I've been a frequent poster on this board for over 6 months now, it was extremely helpful to me when I needed it pre-surgery, and I have tried my best to continue to come on here and help people make informative decisions about their medical options...
I wanted to make a new post about the choice I made regarding my cervical disc herniations, not so much to convince people it's the best way to go, but to let them know that there are other options that do not involve fusion that MAY help their situation. I think the majority of doctors tell patients that FUSION is their ONLY choice, and that is simply not true in all cases. I chose a non-fusion option back in August, and now nearly 6 months later I am very confident in saying that the procedure worked for me. I am pain free, and I am back to doing anything and everything that I did before the herniations. And, I still have fusion, or disc replacement available as options should anything every regress...let's hope not!!
I had disc herniations at C5-6 and C6-7, with severe pain running down my right arm. No known defined cause. Never in a car wreck, never fell of a roof, etc. More than likely an old sports injury that eventually got worse as the years and POUNDS added on!! Initially I found relief through cervical traction and an epidural now and then. After about one year those methods were exhausted to the point where doctors felt surgery was my only choice for pain relief.
I had 5 different doctors tell me fusion was my only option- much to my disappointment. I am 39- not young, not old- and I have two little boys. I didn't like reading about the "adjacent level theory", where once you have fusion there is the potential to need it at other levels. I also didn't like that once the disc was removed and the vertabrae fused, there was no going back. With medical technology advancing the way it does, and with the potential for artificial disc replacement becoming the norm in the future, I wanted to leave as many options open as possible in the years to come.
I scoured the internet for months looking for any and all other options. There are a handful of doctors/facilities in the country that offer minimally invasive, non-fusion choices. I found a doctor in Lake Worth Florida- Dr. Merrill Reuter, at Advanced Orthopaedics of South Florida- who performs minimally invasive procedures WITHOUT fusion. It did cost $200 to send my MRI's, etc to him for review- with no guarantee that he would be able to help- but in the end it was $$$ extremely well spent.
The procedure, as I understand it, may not work if your pain is a result of BONE SPURS vs. DISC HERNIATIONS. BUT DON'T HOLD ME TO THAT, if you're interested at all, I suggest you look into Dr. Reuter and let them tell you for sure.
I went to Florida, had a discogram done which confirmed that in my case it was the herniations and not spurs that were causing my pain.
They essentially go in endoscopically through the front of the neck- anterior- and remove the nucleus of the discs, which is the part that is leaking, or herniated. My scar is nearly non-existent. There is no way you could tell unless I pointed it out to you. They then laser the tears shut, and inject a gel made of your own platelets to fill the void where the nucleus was. Basically to pump the disc-back up. It was an out patient procedure, although since I was from out of town they had me stay in Florida for a week before letting me come home. Luckily I have family there so that was no problem. And who doesn't mind a trip to Florida?? I was in a semi-hard collar for a few weeks, no driving allowed, which was a pain. And then in a soft collar as needed for a few weeks after that. It took awhile to for the stiffness/soreness in my neck to go away, and it further took a few months for my nerves to heal. But I am no longer on any meds whatsoever, and aside from a random massage, or ice packs now and then if I overdo, I am totally back at it...
Anyhow, I'm hoping you'll see this post, take the time to read it, and factor it into your decision process. In my case, I feel very fortunate and satisfied that I took the time to learn more about this option.
Whatever you decide, I hope you find the comfort and relief from your pain that I have...
BW - Great to hear from you, glad you are doing so well.
I think these days ACDF is the main procedure these NS know. The surgern that did my laminectomy said that its the older procedure, but in my case made more sense - and as others have pointed out, less expensive because no "hardware" is used.
I've already had a cervical fusion, yet still found myself reading with bated breath because what you had is what I wanted... but then mid-way thru, I saw you said it's not for those with bone spurs, which I did have... so at least since I didn't have it, now I know I wasn't a candidate anyway. Thanks for sharing the homework you've done and your experience. I hope you continue to do well. I got good results from my fusion, but every time I have even a little flare, I do start to worry if it's the adjacent level starting up or something.
Last edited by Lilacs&Lillies; 01-09-2007 at 10:02 AM.
I don't know if it can be done to an adjacent level. In my layman's opinion, I wouldn't know why not, since they go in endoscopically and pinpoint the exact disc in question.
I also don't know with absolute 100% certainty if all candidates with bone spurs are completely ruled out. Maybe I should have left that open for Dr. Reuter and his staff to explain...
In either case, if you have any specific questions, I would recommend you contact Advanced Orthopaedics of South Florida, in Lake Worth, Florida. Let them tell you precisely what they can and can't do.
WOW....I needed to hear this! Friday, I found out that c6-7 has ruptured. I've already had 2 ACDF's c4-5 and c5-6. One look at my MRI's and my doctor looked at me and said he didn't want to put anymore hardware in my neck. He offered the nonfusion to me and the incision would be at the back of my neck and to be honest, I'm thinking about it. So, yes, this can be done after the fusions. My doctor stated to me that it was common for the disc under the fusions to become "compromised". I am going to try the epidural injections first. You see, I'm a recovering alcoholic and addict. So, thank god the main problem I have right now is numbness. I have some uncomfortable days but not to the point where I need something. So, you can see why the thought of a less invasive way gives me such hope. Thank you so very much for sharing your experience.
BW67--Have you heard of LaserSpinal Institute? I'm scared to death. Please help me. I have had a neck problem for years--c5-6, and last 8 months or so been experiencing problems in my legs--heaviness, stiffness, loss of strength. They want to do fusion. I don't like that idea at all.
I responded to you earlier today but having problems under that screen name I used-Qtant34, so now I have registered again using the Qtant36 screen name. I would really like to hear back from you on whether or not you have heard of LaserSpine Institute?
I posted in general on a new thread, but wanted to ask you specifically...If you were offered the non-fusion with a posterior incision, would you do it, knowing it would involve some longer recovery for the muscles to heal? I keep thinking I should try the non-fusion first, since I have done so well after a non-fusion procedure on L5-S1, but wonder too if I am prolonging the inevitable. Just wish I could wave a magic wand and have the right answer!
I have herniations in the same disks. i am petrified of the diskogram. the doctor himslef told me how painful it is. i'm a nervous wreck. doctor told me of someone who had paralysis due to either the surgery or diskogram. any way you could help me will be greatly appreciated. i feel like i';m going to have a nervous breakdown over this. i've had pain for 20 years since i passed out and fell on the left side of my body. was always told it was fibromyalgia until mri 6 months ago showed the disk problem. have been to several doctors, some say surgery will not help. dr. yesterday mentioned the diskogram. i cannot even sleep i'm so upset. thanks. he did mention fusion to me also. i don't know who to call or what to do... have beent o pain manageemntt, but shots did not help.
I had a discogram and it wasnt bad at all. They put me under "conscious sedation" and I have a very vague memory of them asking me if I felt pain when they did this or that. But nothing was terrible at all. I felt discomfort, but not bad. I ended up getting ACDF C5-C7 on Jan. 10th. I am doing MUCH better now than I was before the surgery.
What kind of Dr. are you seeing to help you tie all of this together? I saw so many I lost count for 5 yrs. I ended up seeing a physiatrist (physical medicine/rehab Dr.) and he tried many things to see if I could get to feeling better. He was really good at tying it all together and getting the full picture. Finally he told me he thought I needed surgery,. and referred me to a orthopedic spinal surgeon. And now I am 5 weeks post op.