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Potential Surgery with Wellex Interspinous Spacer Implant for disc herniation

I created an account when I read the posts by another person who underwent the Wellex surgery in February. BTW I had no idea this website existed, and I look forward to learning more! Anyway, given that I too have been unable to find anything other than glowing testimonials, I felt that I would keep a weekly/monthly update for anyone else who may be thinking about this surgery as an option. If anyone reads this, I would greatly appreciate any research articles on this particular device, although I doubt there are any longitudinal studies given how new it is..

About me: 29F, previously very active, normal BMI.

Currently I am Pre-surgery. 2 months after onset of current episode of pain.

-I have had on-and-off back pain since my late teens. For about 8 years though, my pain has gradually worsened and pain episodes have been lasting months. I have always been told that I have a "back spasm," prescribed muscle relaxers, and sent home with instructions to take it easy but keep moving around.

-My current back pain episode started 2/2018 after I was foam-rolling and stretching at the gym. I had woken up with a little pinch in my left-lower back and thought nothing of it (as I mentioned, I've had pain for years and it was my normal). I had been active at the gym for a few months, and I was trying to take care of myself with lots of soft tissue work and stretching to prevent injury. Anyway, I was reaching for my toes when I felt this terrible twinge and thought, "Oh no, I hurt my back again." I hustled home and by the time I got there I could barely walk. I did not think anything was unusual. I figured this was the latest of a long line of muscle spasms and I just had to chill for a few weeks.  I went to urgent care, got my muscle relaxants and started Advil too.

-I went to PT after a week since the pain was more severe than I could handle. At first the exercises such as pelvic tilts helped. I only had pain in my low back and a little in my hips at this time. Then I got on a plane... on the return trip I thought I would be better off cutting my left leg off because of the pain I felt. This is how I have been over the past 2 weeks. None of the exercises from PT help now; in fact, they make the pain worse.

-I have this hot, burning pain down the back and outside of my left leg. The muscles ache from my lower back down into my foot. I can only survive lying down on my back, and that actually makes my pain go away mostly. It hurts way more at first to lie down, but eventually it does ease. I can't stand or walk for very long. I cannot bend over; I haven't been able to wear socks or tie my shoes in weeks, so now I just wear flip flops. I haven't been able to sleep more than a few hours at night because the pain wakes me up and keeps me up. The pain seems most severe after sitting in the car. I went to the doctor last week (the 3rd one in 2 months) and asked for an MRI because I knew something was not right. He suggested PT and sent a referral for an MRI. In the meantime, I got my 4th course of muscle relaxants (wow!) and some gabapentin. Not much help, honestly. Meanwhile, I am surviving with heaps of Advil and Tylenol, the combination of which seems to make the pain tolerable enough to make it to the bathroom. I am not exceeding maximum dose, but I really want to because it only helps for a few hours. My current mood is probably "desperate." I feel like I would do anything to make the pain go away. So....

-I was in so much pain that I just went to Mexico (I live just next to the border, so it is convenient) to pay for an MRI out of pocket since the referral had already taken so long. I have a "severe" L5-S1 herniation with compression of the nerves, and "attenuation" of L4/L5 (I guess that one is bulging a little, but not a big issue yet). I saw a pain specialist the following day who looked at the images himself and convinced me to have the Wellex. Considering I have been in pain more often than not over the last couple of years and I can't exist unless I am guzzling Advil, I was super interested. He said he would help schedule me for next week because my pain will continue to get worse, and if the disc (and the one above it) continues to worsen, the bones around the cord could start to rub and hypertrophy, which leads to even more issues that require a more invasive surgery. I watched the YouTube videos on this procedure, and it seems to be easy, short, and reversible... so I agreed to it. (But I did say that I would do anything if I thought it would make the pain better...)

-Now that I am home and lying down (so in a less pain) I have been thinking about the surgery, and I guess I am worried it will backfire and make me worse. As I mentioned at the start, I can't find anything negative about this surgery, so I am skeptical. Patient testimonials are all well and good, but it would be nice to read research, any research, about this. The closest I found was an outdated implant (2014 is outdated, apparently) that was equivocal to disc decompression, but required fewer revisions over 1 year.

-I appreciate any replies. I will definitely update following surgery, and hopefully my experience can help others in their journey.

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Comments

  • AJGormitAAJGormit Posts: 2,087
    edited 07/23/2019 - 12:08 PM

    hi herniatedl5s1

    Welcome to Veritas Health Forum

    so sorry for your pain. reading your experience was like jumping back 5 years and i have empathy for you.

    i have just done a little research about the wellex to see the difference of my wallis and there are marked differences.  i had a wallis after my first discectomy didn't help my nerve pain.  i managed to reherniate l5/s1 and herniate l4/l5, so this option was used to give me more time, before a fusion, something we had already discussed and needed to be done. my surgeon said i was too young and wanted to wait as long as possible (i was knocking on the door of 50!).  my warped humour picked up on the funny/positive side of this.

    the fixings of my wallis were a different method to the wellex and my wallis migrated and stopped giving nerve relief.

    it would be very interesting to have your experience on the forum when you go ahead with this procedure.  please join in our surgery buddies groups for extra support and information.  you can find these under 'forum topics'

    i have added two links below to help new members with information and these also contain the forum rules.  there is lots of material to research on spine-health that will give you the power of knowledge.

    welcome to spine health

    all new members should take the system tutorial 
    aj 


  • herniatedL5S1hherniatedL5S1 Posts: 20
    edited 04/11/2018 - 11:15 PM

    DAY 0

    I went through with the surgery today. I am writing my initial impressions before I forget them. I apologize for errors since I am on my phone. I am already home!

    The surgeon performed a disectomy of L5/S1 followed by 2 Wellex implants at that level as well as L4/L5. My MRI showed (more specifically) mild degenerative disk disease at both levels, a 7mm broad based centro-lateral herniation with impingement of the transverse nerve at the lower one with annular disruption; and a 2mm bulge in the higher disk. 

    I was terrified of general anesthetic, but it was not that bad. I just woke up a little confused and with a scratchy throat. All better now in the evening.

    The surgery lasted about 1hr 20minutes which is long for this surgery. Apparently my hernia had been there many years, they suspect, since it was kind of "glued" to the nerve. They had to cut a small bit a bone somewhere to get at the hernia in order to avoid trauma to the nerves. Not typical, I think.

    I cannot express how good I feel. I can WALK. Geez, I practically ran to the bathroom when I thought I was going to puke (I was given a baby dose of morphine and I was super sick from it). I do have 4/5 out of 10 pain from the surgery itself, but that is NOTHING compared to what I described above. I am using tramadol for pain and I dont feel like I even need it. My surgeon is very experiened with this procedure and I think that is partly why I feel as good as I do. The disc removal bit is what really took away the pain and hopefully the implant keeps me from a recurrance. 

    I did the procedure in Tijuana, and had to pay cash, but my friends, family, and partner have been incredible emotional and also financial support right now. I am so grateful to have such loving people in my life because without them this would not have been possible.

    Edited to include: I think I had been retaining urine prior to surgery and did not even realize since the onset was so slow. I blamed my urgency on my morning coffee, and peeing 2 times at night on drinking too many fluids ( even though in actuality I restricted them at night to avoid getting up to pee). I even had a bit of tenderness pushing low on my tummy. ( looking back on it now, I feel like it was obvious that I was retaining urine). I apologize for perhaps too much information but I just peed and, dude, what a difference. I have to share. I feel like I actually emptied my bladder for the first time in who knows how long. Feels great, friends.

    Updates to follow.

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  • Thanks HerniatedL5S1 for posting your experience.  This just fascinates me.  I wish you all the best.

  • herniatedL5S1hherniatedL5S1 Posts: 20
    edited 04/11/2018 - 11:20 PM

    Oh, and for peoole who are research-inclined, here a few of the (dozens) articles I read. I dont have the links, only PDF but I am happy to send to people if you cant find them online. All the Wellex stuff from the company is easy to find so I did not include it. I do have a competitors analysis for the curious, though.

    Microdiscectomy with and without insertion of interspinous device for herniated disc at the L5–S1 level. Marcelo Galarza, Roberto Gazzeri, Pedro De la Rosa, Juan F. Martínez-Lage

    "Superion® InterSpinous Spacer for treatment of moderate degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis: durable three-year results of a randomized controlled trial." Vikas V Patel1, Pierce D Nunley2, Peter G Whang3, Thomas R Haley4, W Daniel Bradley5, Raphael P Davis6, Jon E Block7, Fred H Geisler8

    In Spanish: "Hernias discales lumbares tratadas con interespaciador dinámico." Cueva-del Castillo Mendoza JF., et al.

  • DAY 1

    Lots of post-surgical pain today. Able to walk slowly and stand, but my back is very tender and swollen. The initial elation I had is a bit muted due to the pain, but still no sciatic. My right SI joint kills.

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  • herniatedL5S1hherniatedL5S1 Posts: 20
    edited 04/15/2018 - 3:08 PM

    DAY 2-4

    Mostly have back pain and movement restriction due to surgery. I couldn't believe how exhausted I felt day 3, as if I had the flu. Now on day 4 I am starting to feel better and more normal. I need fewer meds and I am using less advil/tylenol than before the surgery, which I can hardly believe. My small toe on my left foot is numb still, but it seems to come and go. I am able to sit/stand for a few hours without getting sore, and I only need a break to lay down a couple times each day. I still can't bend forward, but I can put socks on all by myself :)

    @nutcase007 - Thank you for the advice. I am taking it easy after surgery, and I think I am finally over the worst pain due to surgery. I will continue to move around as I am able!

    Updates will follow maybe weekly at this point. The whole point of the Wellex is to prevent future herniations (in my case), so it might take time to know if this was worth it.

  • The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • Hi HerniatedL5S1

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences through your recovery.  You sound a very positive person and that really does help.

    Pain is very normal after surgery for a period of time as your back heals.  This is a major surgery so please make sure you have enough pain relief to enable you to mobilise, as this is very important.  Walk little and often I was told and it did help to prevent me from seizing up in the first week.  I extended to outdoors and length of walking as I felt able.

    The exhaustion really can take you by surprise and I found my timed afternoon sleep for an hour helped. I just switched everything off and put myself to bed. 

    It sounds as if you are learning what works for you.  My surgeon told me to listen to my body and that was good advice to follow.

    Take care

    AJ


  • (end of) WEEK 2

    I think I am at about 75-85% of normal, but I suspect this improvement is due primarily to the discectomy prior to the placement of the Wellex. I started my approved exercise program yesterday (heel pumps, abdominal tightening, heel slides, etc.) and it was very easy. I will ask the doctor on my follow-up appointment if I can challenge myself more, but I skipped ahead to piriformis stretches and halfway-down squats with no problem. I haven't been able to stretch my left leg in months, so it felt really good to start. I am not taking anything other than my gabapentin for the numbness in my toe. Did you know that gabapentin might help with healing the myelin around the damaged nerve? That was cool to learn. Anyway, the staples have also come out, so it is easier to find comfortable positions in chairs and in bed.

    I am back doing normal home activities (e.g. cooking, light cleaning), but I can't lift anything above 5lbs without discomfort still. I get tired if I do too much all at once, so I take breaks every hour or so. I can perform all necessary grooming activities without pain, such as trimming my toenails, which used to be agonizing.

    I still have discomfort when I flex or extend my back too far, and I have a strange "clicking" in my back that my doctor said is normal. When laying flat on a hard surface, it feels like a rolled towel is under my back, which I am guessing is the inflammation I still have. My little toe on my left foot is still numb, and it still comes and goes.

    I also want to say that I think I did misinterpret my bladder symptoms that I included at the end of my day 0 post. I think between the muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory medications, and gabapentin I was just really thirsty. Since discontinuing almost every medication, I noticed I am simply drinking much less water, so I am not running to the bathroom. I can't explain away everything, but I think it was a false alarm in any case.

    @AJGormit: Walking has definitely been my new best friend. I notice that I feel stiff in the mornings, but once I move around it goes away. Thank you for your kind words.


  • Wow. Very overdue for an update. I felt so good after Week 3 that I kind of forgot to let the world know.

    By Week 4-5, I felt pretty much back to normal. I was back to cooking and walking my dogs comfortably. There minimal swelling in my lower back that I could feel, but I started my own rehab routine with bodyweight exercises at home (my leg had become much weaker from the nerve compression over a long time). It was around this time, perhaps week 6, that I took a vacation that I had dreamed about and never though I would be able to do because of my back pain. I sat in tiny airplane seats, walked all day long every day for more than a week (including hiking), and I felt great the entire time. I still felt that each day was better than the one before. I felt like a different person.

    Fast forward: I am now about 14 weeks post surgery. Time flies!

    There was a definite peak in healing at about 10 weeks. Since then, I have started to notice my back gets stiff, especially when standing for expended periods of time. I feel, even now, like I can't stretch it out. (I was able to touch my toes again at week 12, so bit by bit). That makes sense considering there are a couple of implants between the spinous processes of my back, and the fact that there is probably a bunch of scar by now. I want to reiterate that a little stiffness is incredible compared to where my pain was before. I still have a small numb spot on my left calf, but my leg has fully regained its strength.

    I hope to continue periodic updates.

  • I haven't checked in for a more than year, but I have still been feeling great. Happy start to 2020!

    I am back to an active lifestyle, I have lost some weight (on purpose), and I feel like a changed person. I enjoyed reading through this blog since I actually started to forget how much pain I had in the past. I had forgotten I used to need help putting my socks on.  

    I am now more optimistic and happy overall. I am more flexible now and I now have what I would consider normal-people intermittent back pain (like when I sleep funny and I wake up a little sore).

    I hope this surgery will one day be offered and covered by insurance in the USA, as I think it is a good option for those considering fusion. My surgeon told me the lifespan of the Wellex is 20 years, so I expect one day I will have to have some kind of revision or something. I doubt this blog will still be active by then, but I hope I remember to keep dropping updates so there is some kind of "long term" results data out there for those suffering like I used to be.

  • memerainboltmemerainbolt IndianaPosts: 4,161

    Thank you so much for the update. And to hear how good you are doing is great!!
    Take care and keep us posted.

    Sandra

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