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Cervical and lumbar fusions
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Cervical and lumbar fusions

Hello. I am 34 yrs old and have had a spinal fusions at the C4-5,5-6,6-7 and at the L5-S1 levels. The neck surgery was 1 year age and the lumbar surgery was 6 months ago. I have been diagnosed with Degenerative Disc Disease. I have been in pain for the past 4 years. I still have a serious amount of pain. My arms still go numb when doing things that require my arms to be over my head, even for short periods such as doing my hair. I can not lie on my back with my arms overhead. I also can not lie on my back because my right thigh goes numb and when I attempt to get up,  it feels as though something is going out of place in my lower back. I am currently taking vicoprofen for pain, when needed, along with Arthrotec and Zanaflex. I have to take 2 Zanaflex for it to relieve the muscle spasms. I get spasms in my neck, shoulder blade, and mid back areas. I still have shooting pain down my right leg (buttock,outside back, down to front of the ankle). I am in pain writing this. I have severe stiffness. I feel like an old lady and take forever to get out of bed in the morning. I can not look toward the ground without feeling pulling all the way down my back. I have had follow up MRI's which show excess scar tissue around the nerve at the L5-S1 area that they say must be removed when everything is healed. Won't this just grow back? I am still not back to work. I use a muscle stim 3x per day and am still in a back brace. They say the fusin is healing nicely. How long should this recovery process take for my surgeries? I am getting very frustrated as I have always been very active! I have worked for UPS in management for 10 years, which requires me to train the drivers.....which means lifting,etc. What type of work will I be able to do when I am fully recovered? Should I expect to be able to return to work?  Any help you may give me would be greatly appreciated.
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Avatar_n_tn
Dear Christine:

Sorry to hear about your pain and suffering.  As a rule surgery is the last option.  The outcome really depends on the surgeon.  So, the outcomes are quite variable.  Surgery is also unpredictable concerning the outcome.  There is a long period of rehab in those patient who have favorable outcomes as well as those that have worsening of their problem.  Those that recover, are those that take their rehab seriously and stick with the program that their specialist gives them.  I wish I could tell you that your outcome will get you back to your baseline before the pain and problems that caused the surgery.  But there is no telling about the outcome. Work hard at your rehab, do all the things to reduce strain on your spine (diet, weight, etc), and hope for the best.

I am sorry there is no real concensus about recovery or outcome in spinal surgery.

Sincerely,

CCF Neuro MD
20 Comments
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Avatar_n_tn
You mentioned in your message, that you've had the pain for 4 years, but not how long you've been recovering from these surgeries thus far.  I have had cervical spine surgery 3 times and consirable lifting is something I have decided to avoid.  I also have permanent nerve damage, very limited use of one arm, pain and neuro symptoms; even 14 months post-op.  But here's what I did.  I went to an Occupational Rehabilitation Physician that my Neurosurgeon referred me to.  They are great because they consider your condition, symptoms, limitations and work history.  They may conduct tests such as EMGs, etc, depending on how current your tests are.   They will make recommendations that make it much easier to understand whether you should abide by special restrictions, or if you can return to your previous position.  In my case, I could not return to the same job.  But did take a position which is much easier on me, and requires no lifting.  A headset instead of telephone also works wonders.  You might want to talk to your surgeon about having one of these assessments done by an Occupational Physician!  He worked with my NS the whole time and it worked out great for both my NS and myself.
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Avatar_n_tn
Dear Megan:

Thanks for your comments.

CCF Neuro MD
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Avatar_n_tn
MY MOTHER IS SCHEDULED TO HAVE LUMBAR FUSION SURGERY(BOTTOM 5)VIRT.S IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS, SHE'S 67YRS OLD AND IS AFRAID ABOUT HAVING SURGERY AND THE RECOVERY TIME AFER, ARE THERE ANY NEW PROCEDURES SHE SHOULD CONSIDER BEFORE GOING THROUGH WITH THE SURGERY???
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Avatar_n_tn
Dear Cheryl:

Whether there are other possible things to be done on your mother is difficult to tell you as I do not know what work up and therapeutic trials she has had.  Depending on the problem, surgery is often the only resort.  Recovery depends alot on the surgeon, and the ability of the person to undergo rehab. As rehab is a large player in the recovery, the best PT/OT therapists are needed. The outcomes likewise depend on the surgeon.  Obviously, if all therapeutic considerations have been gone over then surgery is likely the only option.  I hope the surgery goes well.

Sincerely,

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Avatar_n_tn
please be patient,it will take time.keep a good attitude,and don,t reinjure your back.scar tissue builds with time and surgeries,you will never be able to pick up any thing of weight over and over again.attitude is the key,life is hard when in pain mentallyand physiclly.
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Avatar_n_tn
Mike:

Thanks for your comment.

CCF Neuro MD
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Avatar_n_tn
Thanks to you all for your insight, knowledge, and encouragement!! Times are tough, but at least I know I am not alone in my suffering (not that I wish others to suffer as I!).

Christine :)
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Avatar_n_tn
thanks for your comments.

CCF Neuro MD
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Avatar_n_tn
I had a cervical fusion of c5-6 and 6-7 on January 5, 2000. It has been 2 months and I feel great!  I am 31 years old and had bone taken from my hip and placed in my spine along with a titanium post. My hip hurt the worst and my pain from my neck was instantly gone.  I have not taken any pain pills since the day after my surgery and would not be afraid to have the surgery again.
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Avatar_n_tn
I had microdiskectomy last May after having back pain and severe pain and numbness in my right leg/foot for five months.  My orthopedic surgeon told me the numbness in the foot probably wouldn't go away because I waited to long and caused nerve damage.  Well I had the surgery and was told by him that he had severed a nerve during surgery (I had to lie flat an extra day  after surgery because he feared I may leak spinal fluid and have a tremendous headache he said). Since that time I have had pain and spasm in the left leg/foot and sometimes the right.  I'm
also having pain and weakness in my right arm.  He wants to do an MRI of my neck...he said it may be bone spurs and if so there not much he can do about that.  My sister thinks I should get a second opinion about all of this...what do you think?
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Avatar_n_tn
Hello,
My question is:
what is this operation called?
On the 24th of March I am having surgury on my lumbar spine. all I really know is that they take bone from my hip and fill in the part in my spine that needs it. they place a metal pocket and fill it with bone, take four screws to hold it there and for the next six months I wear a plastic body cast, (back brace).
The doctor has made it quite clear this is a major operation and to please take this seriously, I have complained of lower back pain for over a year now, since and injury on the ice. An MRI was done, this showed the deformation of the bone, to lead to this diagnosis... any Ideas what this is called, so I can look up info on it? can anyone tell me how major is major?
                thanks, Lori
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Avatar_n_tn
I was hit by a truck (rear-ended) going very fast on 3/9/94 and had a cervical fusion (C5-C6 & C6-C7) in Dec '94. It was a long recovery...off of work 3 months and in physical therapy for probably a year, due to muscle damage also.

On February 9, 2000, this year, I slipped and fell on some ice and was knocked out.  I was taken to the emergency room and the doctor told me that I did not have a fusion between C5-C6 and C6-C7.  My MRI states there is a fibrous rather than osseous fusion.  Should I worry about this....do I need another surgery?

The MRI also stated that hypertrophic bone spurs are also seen in the bodies of the C5, C6, and C7 vertebrae.  Diffuse nonfocal disk bulge is present at C5-6 and C6-7.  Bulging disks and bone spurs compromise the ventral subarachnoid apace and abut the cord.  Furthermore, the bone spurs compromise laterall recesses of the spinal canal at C5-6 and C6-7.  Signal abnormalities are see in the bone marrow of C5, C6, and C7 vertebrae, indicative of long-standing discogenic disease.

I don't understand any of this?  Does anyone or any M.D. like to comment on the above?
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Avatar_n_tn
I am scheduled for C4-5 and C5-6 fusion next week.  When the doctor's office called to tell me the time of surgery, she said that an "atrial cath" would be inserted prior to surgery.  She was unable to explain...the doctor was busy, as was his nurse.  My question is....WHAT IS AN ATRIAL CATH...AND WHY IS IT BEING USED?
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi,
I read your story. It is much like mine. I am fused at C 5/6 and C6/7 and then at T-5 trough T-11. I am having surgery again this month to fuse C8/T1. I am also having really bad pain higher up in my neck. My doctors are going to do an updated test to check the other discs so we can pin point where the pain is coming from. I either have another bad disc up high are like you said scar tissue and then after any surgery also with scar tissue you also get bone spurs which can also rub on nerves and cause pain.
The thing I have learned is that even with surgery the pain never all goes away and never will. I have have spine problems and lived in pain since I was 18 and I am 37. Surgery causes another set of problems, but I feel like once the disc is blown out what choice do we have. You have the get the vertabreas off the nerves or you get permanet nerve damage. I waited so long to have my first surgery. I couldn't afford to take off work so I just kept on working. I waited too long and I can't feel my fingers on my left hand. The test they will do on me is called a discogram. I don't know maybe you have had this, but in most cases Dr. always do MRI's and it you have metal of anykind at your fusion levels then you can't always get a good ready on an MRI. They do MRI because they are easy. Discograms are much more involved and there is more risks but it is the truest test to see what is going on. Also about working, I could not work any more. I was in so much pain and driving 2 hours a day and had a very stressful job. I went to SS Disablity and filed. I found them 2 yrs but I won. I hired an Atty to help me in the end. I just know how much it hurts and no one should have to work and feel that way. It hurts bad enough just sitting around.
Thanks,
Terri Ferguson
***@****  
Feel free to email me if you want to talk about the mess were in!
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi,
I read your story. It is much like mine. I am fused at C 5/6 and C6/7 and then at T-5 trough T-11. I am having surgery again this month to fuse C8/T1. I am also having really bad pain higher up in my neck. My doctors are going to do an updated test to check the other discs so we can pin point where the pain is coming from. I either have another bad disc up high are like you said scar tissue and then after any surgery also with scar tissue you also get bone spurs which can also rub on nerves and cause pain.
The thing I have learned is that even with surgery the pain never all goes away and never will. I have have spine problems and lived in pain since I was 18 and I am 37. Surgery causes another set of problems, but I feel like once the disc is blown out what choice do we have. You have the get the vertabreas off the nerves or you get permanet nerve damage. I waited so long to have my first surgery. I couldn't afford to take off work so I just kept on working. I waited too long and I can't feel my fingers on my left hand. The test they will do on me is called a discogram. I don't know maybe you have had this, but in most cases Dr. always do MRI's and it you have metal of anykind at your fusion levels then you can't always get a good ready on an MRI. They do MRI because they are easy. Discograms are much more involved and there is more risks but it is the truest test to see what is going on. Also about working, I could not work any more. I was in so much pain and driving 2 hours a day and had a very stressful job. I went to SS Disablity and filed. I found them 2 yrs but I won. I hired an Atty to help me in the end. I just know how much it hurts and no one should have to work and feel that way. It hurts bad enough just sitting around.
Thanks,
Terri Ferguson
***@****  
Feel free to email me if you want to talk about the mess were in!
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Avatar_n_tn
IAM David> I have had fusions of c3,4,5,6. Very long road back. Cannibas was most effective for pain relief. I became dependant. I suggest using it in cooking, not smoking. But it is not going to cure. I have found that my pain is a manifestation of my unhappy thought processes. Change you job and lifestyle if you are in pain. Concentrate only on the things you really WANT TO DO - even if it seems stupid or others disapprove or laugh at you. Getting rid of the pain is the only priority. The pain is a message that we are denying ourselves the true life we want. Please remember it is only the bravest that have put our hands up to go through the agony we all have. But it's not forever. Now is the time to change. God is withus. IAM certain of this. May laughter and happiness be your best friends forever. Love Dave
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Avatar_n_tn
I am replying to lori mans surgery procedure, spinal fusion....  i want to know how she made out??  i had a diskogram and my surgeon wants to work on L4 and L5..... lori please respond or any other that has had a cage fusion..

thank you
melissa
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Avatar_n_tn
After reading all your stories, I don't feel so bad.  I have a severe annular defect in my disk at L5/S1 and my orthopedic surgeon wants to do fusion surgery.  This is a work related injury so I have to deal with the woker's comp system on top of everything else.  I've been off of work for a year and can't sit for prolonged periods.  I also have radial tunnel syndrome bilaterally, so I can't do any fine finger movements.  Physical therapy has helped tremendously and the pain is bearable as long as I don't do anything, but I'm very concerned about my ability to work and support myself in the future. Plus my emotions are shot from the whole experience and I can't seem to make a decision.  Do I risk living with what I have, try to improve my condition through exercise only and try to control my own work schedule?  Or do I trust that the surgery will be a success and I can go back to work?  My orthopedic surgeon is very well respected by his former patients, professional colleagues, lawyers and the insurance companies.
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Avatar_n_tn
hello jill,
i figured i'd find a fellow l5,s1'r in this room, i'm not going to take to much room, simply same kind of pain (not the fingers sorry about that)aqua rehab. + physical therapy, going to beat this w/out going under the knife must commite to proper diet as much pt as you can handle focus on positive no matter what, it has been a long 9 months(i know a lot of you much longer)i have done nothing but physical all my life (fire,ski patrol,surf etc..)i cannot do any of those jobs or sports at this time, i have lost my full time job and benifits cannot do pt jobs as well dealing with red tape workmans comp is a big joke i have been a wonderful husband and father during all this(not!),sorry folks thought this was the venting network, i do like the way you all encourage one another that's a good (God) thing, hope you all dont mined me going thru and saying a little pray for our health i sure would'nt mind any prayer's directed my way!
dont rush into anything!
get well!
thanks
gbfn..........
kk
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