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Still having pain after surgery



  • Hello!

    I feel for you and I know exactly where you are. I have had 14 spine operations. I have had everything from T12 to S1 fused, plates in and then taken out, osteomyelitis of the spine (a staph infection in many of the vertebrae with screws in them L1-2,L3-4, hence the removal of the plates and screws), 4 separate debridements, spinal cord stimulator implanted and removed (removed when they found the osteomyelitis), and so on.

    I have also studied for and was a awarded a doctorate in physical anthropology with a specialization in osteology, particularly age-progressive phenomena affecting the spine and sacroiliac. So, I understand your problem from a couple of different perspectives.

    First, Padora's Box is opened, meaning once you have the first surgery there is no going back and you are in for a ride...regardless for what they do now. I am so sorry for you, because it sounds like you are experiencing what is referred to as a "failed back" or "failed back surgery." What most doctors won't tell you is that there is a very high probability that nothing they do will help.

    Degenerative disc disease isn't really a disease at all, it's a process. One that with the proper treatment, none of it involving surgery, can be allayed and the effects (pain, stiffness, etc.) reversed. But they don't tell you that either.

    Epidurals rarely help. Many use them to establish the severity of the condition, almost as a diagnostic criteria. If they don't work they say "See, it didn't now we have to look deeper." Steroid injections can actually do more damage than good.

    A minor spina bifida of L5 is not that uncommon and in and of itself may not cause much of a problem, often the actual opening is so small the spinal cord doesn't protrude at all and people remain asymptomatic their whole lives. It's the repeated surgeries and the swelling that concern me, as I am sure they do you!

    A white spot, will sometimes indicate a "hot spot" or an infection, usually also indicating a hematoma, this deep post-op it should be something that concerns your surgeon, if it causing increasing levels of pain and getting bigger, he or she should be notified at once of your concern. If he shows little concern you may have the wrong doctor!

    Going down the road to a fusion is never a decision to be made lightly but I understand why you are considering it. The pain gets so bad you will do anything to alleviate it, even submit to a major surgery in the hope of relief. I can't tell you what to do, I am not in your skin, but weigh the decision and get a second opinion. Just tell your orthopedic surgeon you would feel better if you had another orthopedic surgeon or, better yet, a neurologist look at it. The reason for a neurologist is obvious, they are more into the nerves and less into the cutting...and they understand the spinal cord better!

    I would definitely ask for a consult with a neurologist, and do some research and find out who a good one is in your area. Then beg, borrow, and steal to see him or her at once. They will definitely look at things from a different perspective and if they say you need the surgery, you can be assured that you are on the right track.

    Good luck, take care, and have that swelling looked at immediately!

    Professor John P. J. Zajaros, Sr.

    PS, Sorry about any typos but I wanted to get this right out to you!
  • Its not that I don't want a fusion, if there is a chance to have less pain I am there. There has been a few "succesful" fusions right? My doctor said he wanted to put it off as long as he can since I am only 32, but does age make a difference? Does that mean I have the wrong doctor? I will see about seeing a neurologist asap. This is so stressful in so many ways. Thanks for the concern.
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  • You are definitely hard core! I'm somewhat confused by what Prof. John had to say about the neurologist. I think the person you may need to consult with would be a neurosurgeon. There's a difference. Am I wrong? I may be, God knows I have been before now!
  • I had a fusion that failed, but it was also a last resort short of putting in a pain pump/stimulator. I think you are still young enough to go for it man. I always said that I would never recommend it to anyone unless we were in the same boat and guess what...we are. I have had three surgeries, 6 go's at PT (including traction/inversion tables), steroid pack after steroid pack, pain killers/muscle relaxants/nerve meds on & off for 8 years (I am only 25), 80 epidurals and acupuncture. I think you could say that we have both exhausted all of our options. My best advice would be to make sure you want to do it, but I think it's a good decision. You never know unless you try. You are truly hardcore my friend being through all of the crap you've been through. I give you lots of credit because I know how hard it is. We will probably never be 100%, but hey I guess feeling a little better is better than nothing. Best of luck man! Let me know what happens.
  • This Thursday back I go to hear what he says my MRI says. I left his nurse a message telling her "it's ruptured again, and I see a whole mess of solid white stuff that wasn't on my MRI after the first surgery" (probably whats keeping up the swelling, no idea what all the white is) and that I still needed pain meds since they wouldn't give me more til they saw "proof" I still had something causing pain =)) . What A**holes I know. She said "you don't know what you are looking at on the can you read it"? And I'm like hey...I have had so many MRI's I know what a rupture looks like, I know what desiccated disc look like. I have a library of disc of my MRI's from over the past 13+ years.
    So she prescribed me a expensive medicine called talwin nx (never had it)that my insurance wouldn't cover without a doctor override (which he didn't do??? X( ), and I couldn't afford it since I am not working as of right now (food for kids or new meds?...DUH). So I called his nurse and asked her to at least prescribe something that is covered like the percocet 10's I was on that worked ok for the pain, but no...she calls in a script for loratab 5's...anyone who knows pain meds knows those don't do crap for real pain like mine/ours =)) . So needless to say I am a little pissed at my Doc. I don't want to have to take pills, but I don't want to be in pain to the point of tears anymore either :''( . So yes if he says surgery again I am there. But I will need to see another Doc for a second opinion since this Doc is seemingly more about his wallet than my pain getting relieved. I'll keep you all informed. Happy Memorial day to all!
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  • I'm sorry to hear that. Unfortunately, it ALWAYS comes down to the dollar. Quality of care has seriously gone down the tubes in the last decade. I take MS Contin now. Since you have acute pain all over again they should have at least put you on 10 Lorcet/Lortab. I hope you at least got to enjoy Memorial weekend. I can't tell you because the MRI is not in front of me, but the white could be scar tissue along with the new rupture. Definitely let us know how it goes. Sorry, it seems like everyone is having problems getting the right prescriptions lately! Hang in there.
  • Well it's official. My Surgeon says it's a major rupture again, and since third times the charm we will be doing a lumbar fusion. He also suggested I get some epidural shots until I get everything arranged and we set the exact date. The shots never helped before and the last one I had before my last discectomy surgery some how "ripped" a hole in my dural sac and gave me a spinal fluid leak and luckily my Surgeon found it and repaired it while he was in there doing his thing. So I'm a little sketched out. The reasons I have to wait is unfortunately financial. I have been out of work so long now the money just isn't there to be out of work even longer. My Wife, bless her heart has been the rock during my struggle, and we just found out she is going to have a full hysterectomy at the young age of 33. God has chosen to humble me for some odd reason, but I still have faith God will help the way he always has...if you get my drift. I feel like I'm losing my mind!!!!
    Life is never easy, but that's what life is about...facing obstacles head on, and maybe not at first, but conquering them eventually, and feeling great for doing so. I'll keep this topic going when I get farther down this long road I am on.
  • Holy cow! I wish you all the best. A fusion is a long recovery, but when it works it's well worth it. I'm so sorry that you have another rupture, but at least you know now. The waiting game sucks. I wish your wife the best of luck with her surgery. My fusion was through the abdomen so I feel for her. Back surgeries with hardware are especially expensive! I know how tough it is to struggle with money, owning a house and being out of work. I don't have any kids, but I can imagine the added financial strain. I can't imagine what you are going through right now physically/mentally, but we are all here for you. When is the surgery scheduled?
  • So sorry to hear you're going to have to have another surgery! -And your wife too! So much for a young family to go through. You family will be in my prayers. Keep us posted on how things go.
  • God never gives us more than we can bear -- but I'd say he's given you quite the load! You are so young to be burdened with such painful back troubles. Stay positive that this next operation will be a success and you will slowly get your life back. I hope that you and your wife have a support system of family and friends to get you through this tough time -- don't be to proud to reach out and as for help -- you'll be there one day for the people who are helping you now. It's easy to say not to worry and try to relax but I understand how hard that is when you have financial woes and are out of work -- I just lost my job two weeks ago due to my back issues.

    Reach out to the members here whenever you need a little morale boost -- we're here for you -- and I'll keep you in my prayers.
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