Hi. I just registered. I'm very concerned. I had a two level fusion in January 2008 at C5-7. I had severe lower back spasms and after three years of undiagnosed pain, I found a Dr. who actually took an X-ray. He immediately hooked me up with a neurosurgeon. Both Drs. told me I had to have surgery immediately because I was in jeopardy of being paralysed. That definately got my attention and is probably why I'm so stressed now. My family dr. and the neurosurgeon both said the exact same thing. They both called it severe cervical spinal stenosis (compression on my spinal cord). The surgery was successful and it was a no brainer for me, except I had to go on short term disablity. I immediately noticed as soon as I awoke from surgery that the pain was gone. I had lived with it for three years and it severely impaired my life. Advil didn't touch the pain - something was laying on a nerve. I was prescribed Vicodin and my family dr. was afraid I'd further injure myself because it would and did take the pain away. From the diagnosis to the surgery it all happened so fast. After 4 weeks, the fusion is healed and the bones around it are healthy, so the neurosurgeon sent me to physical therapy. I was afraid of reinjuring myself, but the neck messages afterwards made it worth it and in the end I was surprised how much it did help. That brings us to now, approximately 2 years after I returned to work. One day I had shoulder pain, the next day I had sharp pain and numbling and tingling down my left arm. Fourth day I saw my family dr. He ordered a nerve assessment which didn't find anything. My right arm started having the same thing so he sent me for an MRI. The initial results my family dr. told me was that I had a bulge at c4 directly above my fusion. I saw my neurosurgeon yesterday. He said he didn't agree with the MRI reading, the MRI report stated that I had compression on my spinal cord. The neurosurgeon didn't think it was compression but agreed I had a bulge. He did not think surgery was necessary at this time. He also stated that I have a bulge at C7-T1 and that is very unusual. I'm just taking this all in and didn't know what to ask. I began with new symptoms 2 days before seeing him. I now have pain radiating out from my tailbone and it is painful to walk or stand for very long. My pain is not as severe as it was 2 years ago, but is definately uncomfortable and making small tasks very difficult. He is ordering an injection from a pain specialist and an MRI from a different imaging location on my back. I'm wondering if the fusion has caused the deteriation above and below? I've got 22 years in at work and they only allow a total of 12 months total for disability leave. I've already used 5 months. I really do believe that my work has created alot of my back problems even though my job is administrative - there's still alot of pulling, pushing, lifting, bending, twisting etc. Not to mention Stress I'm exhausted before the end of the day. I don't know if this condition is considered a disability. I'd have to have a PERS doctor look at my condition. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself - but I'm so tired of the pain and work is very stressful. I have to be able to function. In the meantime, I'm just waiting for the next step.
Re: post c5-7 fusion, now have bulge above and below
It is not uncommon for disks above and below a fusion to later herniate and or bulge. It is because the fusion itself causes more stress on the areas above and below the fusion. Some people have it operated on, some just live with it, monitoring it's progress, if any.
I had 2 fusions, one in 2003 and one in 2008. I am "supposedly" fused from c3-c7 (that's what they told me they did between the two surgeries) but just discovered during a brain MRI the other day I have yet another herniation and spinal cord compression at c3-c4! Makes absolutely no sense to me since my c3-c4 is supposed to be fused.
C7-T1 are extremely rare and often doctors will not operate to do the closeness of the heart. (? so I'm told). I was just reading about that not minutes ago.
If you do have a second surgery do be sure to talk to the doctor about where you will be cut. My surgeon was very cautious and instead of going horizontal in the front he went vertical to prevent scar tissue formation. He went to the right of the original scar, he felt the left side was more risky.
My second surgery brought me no relief at all and I ended up with a huge lump on the back of my neck. One year post the first fusion I was rear ended in a car accident while at a dead stop. The accident broke screws in my neck, which could not be removed totally, and caused permanent damage to the muscles and nerves.
I'd suggest, for peace of mind, to get a second opinion. As far as disability, it is highly unlikely unless you suffer from chronic pain with permanent damage and or are unable to do your job and are seeing a specialist for it. Although some insurance companies are more lax in their rulings.
No matter how great your illness or pain, there's always someone else who may be worse off.
Re: post c5-7 fusion, now have bulge above and below
Thank you for replying. Your information was very helpful. And like you said, some people have it so much worse. I did have some relief just seeing the neurosurgeon yesterday. He is rated very highly and in practice with one of the best. He has a terrific bedside manner. He is planning to keep a close eye on me. I wasn't really impressed with the person doing my MRI and I'll be getting an MRI for my back at a top rated hospital per his request. Hopefully the pain specialist will be able to relieve some pain because he thinks I have alot of inflamation. It sounds like once you've had spinal problems, they will persist and probably get worse. At least he didn't jump to the conclusion that I needed additional surgery, but hasn't suggested physical therapy yet. The last time I had seen him post op, he did an xray and told me that the fusion was healed and that the surrounding bones were healthy. I think I had read that fusions do cause stress on the surrounding vertabrae. This pain is not nearly as bad as before and that is also a relief. I think in my mind I was reliving my original experience - pain undiagnosed for three years - and then the diagnosis that said I must have the surgery. I had no choice, they said a fall or accident could paralyse me. I have so much respect for both of my drs. My primary physician sees me ASAP no matter what. He is very cautious. I think if he doesn't agree with the neuro, he will refer me to another. I have to have a referal in order for my insurance to pay. I'm a state employee, so disability retirement could be an option I am told by HR, but it's too soon to tell. I raised three sons by myself without child support and guess I'm just feeling tired of the rat race and the pain too. But I do enjoy my job and very fortunate to be in my position. They pay me very well, but I have alot of responsibilities that require me to be on my toes, travel, etc. This pain is new now, but I'm probably looking at worst case scenario. At least I'm in the care of someone and I do trust him to do the right thing. Both are very pro-active. I was scheduled for surgery in December of 2007 and found out as they were ready to take me to surgery that my blood count was too low. He came in and apoligized to me because he couldn't do the surgery then because it could be bad for my heart. My iron was at 8. They sent me for a colonoscopy, an endoscopy and to an oncologist. The oncologist told me I was anemic. Since anemia isn't a disability and I hadn't had the surgery, I was required to go back to work. My neuro's office called the state and explained that I could not work. So I trust him to go out of his way for his patients.
I do hope you find some relief also. I am so surprised that so many people are dealing with spinal disorders. I had always been so healthy and his really threw me.
Thank you for your advise and sharing your experience.