View Full Version : Anyone out there had surgery for a herniated disk?
09-15-2000, 08:06 PM
I got some less-than-pleasant news from my orthopedist yesterday - based on my MRI results, my herniated disk has gotten significantly worse in the last 2 and half years. After a trip to the ER last week, some less-than-effective pain killers in the ass, and an MRI, I got an epidural steroid injection last week to alleviate the pain. But this only treats the symptoms and does nothing to alleviate the disk herniation. As I've had one major reoccurrence (and a couple of minor ones) since the original diagnosis, changes are good that another reoccurrence is more likely. Also, since the herniation has gotten significantly worse despite several positive changes I've made (weight loss, exercise, etc), I am inclined to believe that it will continue to get worse. So I am considering surgery. At this point I would need a lumbar laminectomy, which removes the herniation but does not include removal of the disk and fusion of the vertebrae.
I will be seeking a second opinion from another orthopedist, and also looking into non-surgical treatments.
I'd be interested in hearing any experience, good or bad. I've already got lots of mixed information from people I know IRL so I might as well get some from Dopers as well.
I feel kind of strange asking this here, as it is not particularly entertaining, but it's certainly no worse than asking for relationship advice....and it's no more personal than this (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=38339).
09-15-2000, 08:19 PM
My mom had surgery some years ago. She went in for a laminectomy, and ended up having a spinal fusion as well. It was a long surgery, and there was a long recovery time (about a month, IIRC) but she came out of it beautifully. She got back all the function she had lost, and lived another 30 years before we lost her to cancer.
All I would say is that you should talk to some nurses or other health care professionals in your area and make sure that your orthopedic surgeon is the best. If you don't know anyone like that, call your local hospital ER and ask them if they recommend any particular orhopedic surgeon. Hopefully you will connect with a nice nurse who will help you. They probably aren't supposed to do this, but most times they are caring enough to do so anyway.
Good luck, and I'm praying for your good health!
09-15-2000, 08:36 PM
I had a lumbar lami (L5/S1) several years ago. My experience was two years of back (actually more like right hip) pain while the disc was bulging and pressing on a nerve, but was not herniated. It seems that until it actually herniates, surgery is not recommended. I had surgery after it finally herniated and was pain-free for six months. Then, unfortunately, I had more pain and a second surgery. Although my MD was worried that my back was unstable, it turned out to be just a small piece of disc that either broke free after the surgery or else was missed in the first surgery. Yippee! Since then, that disc has not given me any trouble. A year or two ago, I had a second rupture (L4/5), but the pain resolved after several weeks, so no surgery. To my surprise and relief, it has not given me any trouble since.
As far as advice goes, you might want to think of getting an opinion from a neurosurgeon as well before you make your decision. Also, if you know anyone who works at the hospital where you would go, ask for recommendations. I work in a hospital now (didn't then) and these days I wouldn't think of surgery until I had some insider scoop. Official data sources (like the AMA) are NOTHING compared to the scoop you get from folks who work there. Even if it means asking friends of friends of friends, it is worth it. When my disc herniated, I was in another state on vacation. I was planning to find a new MD anyway and facing surgery forced me to act quickly. I called a woman back home whom I had met only once who had mentioned that her husband was a neurosurgeon. She gave me his number and when I asked him for a recommendation, he was a bit surprised to hear from a complete stranger in another state, but he told me about the surgeon who eventually did my surgery. I have never regretted that call.
Good luck to you, porcupine. It sounds like you have been through a lot and deserve some relief.
09-15-2000, 08:39 PM
Scotticher--I see we both believe in insider info! I am glad you recommended it, too, because I STRONGLY believe it is the only way to go. Your idea of talking to an ER nurse is a good one!
09-15-2000, 09:02 PM
Brynda, I work for a dentist.
Do you know how most people find a doctor or dentist? They ask their friends, and people say "oh, I LOVE my dentist/doctor, his name is ...."
Trust me, this is NOT the way to go. Your friends like their doctor/dentist because he is a nice guy, he is cute, he doesn't hurt them, he has an ad in the phone book. This last one really kills me, because anyone who needs to put an ad in the phone book is (trust me!) not someone you want to go to.
The people who know the scoop are the people in the profession. Unfortunately, there are all too many less than adequate people who have the expertise to pass the state boards, but don't have the ethics to practice their profession with any degree of responsiblity.
I realize that I am on my soapbox, here, but so beit. It ticks me off that there are so many doctors/dentists who are more concerned with paying for their yacht than with practicing their profession with ethics and morals.
I am personally priviledged to work for a man who doesn't put anything in a patient's mouth that he wouldn't put in his own, given various different life situations. I make less money than I could if I went to work somewhere else, but I have to tell you that I sleep well at night.
I like that alot!
09-15-2000, 09:23 PM
I had a ESI for my herniated disc two years ago and although they said it would not fix the problem I have had no pain in two years.I had it done twice.
It was my 3rd or 5th lumbar I forget which. It was so bad that I could not straighten up. I was in a constant 45 degree stoop.
I have been told to aviod back surgery at all costs.Don't know weather I agree with that but I thought I'd share the message.
Good Luck with whatever you decide.
09-15-2000, 10:32 PM
For the past three years, the disc between my 4/5lumbar has ruptured and been putting pressure on my sciatic nerve. That pressure was causing all of the muscles from my hip to the arch of my foot to cramp. This was on the right side. I had several series of steriod injections and oral steriods. I was on muscle relaxers and powerful pain killers for the last year before my surgery. My body just laughed at the drugs. I was in so much pain that I couldn't sleep, I couldn't sit, I couldn't walk, I couldn't do anything except suffer. The doctor finally scheduled my surgery and told me it was a discectomy and laminectomy. When I woke up in the recovery room, I was pain free. I was released from the hospital the next day. I was back to work in two weeks (part-time) and fulltime within 6 weeks. I will occasionally have problems with residual nerve damage, but nothing like before the surgery. I would do it again in a minute. I just wish I had done it earlier, but because of my HMO, I had to have all of those steroid injections.
But talk to other people that have had this surgery and find out their opinions too.
09-16-2000, 08:37 AM
My husband had a similar problem. He tried all sorts of physical therapy etc., but the MRI showed that surgery was necessary. We were surrounded by a chorus of people screaming "don't get surgery!" and of course it was the last resort, but in the end it was the best thing he could have done. He went to the best surgeon around, and all went very well. He had instant relief from the back pain, and his recovery was swift and complete. The key was the physical therapy. The stuff that he did before the surgery helped strengthen his back, and he did his PT religiously after the surgery.
You should exhaust every other option before resorting to surgery, but if it turns out to be necessary, do it and ignore the naysayers. It's real easy for them to tell you what to do because they don't have to deal with the pain.
09-16-2000, 10:03 PM
Thanks to everyone who responded. I really appreciate it.
Just a note that this was my third epidural, and I think they'll only do a maximum of 6 because of the potential nasty effects of the steroids. So although this has helped short term, I don't think it will be sufficient in the long term.
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