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Herniated Disk in cervical spine
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Herniated Disk in cervical spine

I have had an MRI, due to neck and shoulder pain.  The MRI shows a "moderate-sized, broad-based, central and left-sided herniated disk.  There is a severe compromise of the left side of the spinal canal.  There is a moderate degree of cord compression on the left.  There is also cmopromise of the left neural foramen.  At C4-5 and C6-7, there is a mild bulging of the annuli.  The spinal canal and nural foramina do not appear significantly stenosed.  There is not other significant abnormality seen."

I have been to (2) neuro-surgeons, who have each told me that surgery was my only option, even though it was not an emergency.  I am worried about the compromise to my spinal cord/canal, so am definitely going to have the surgery.  

Each doctor has described different surgical procedures, and I am trying to weigh out the pros/cons for each:
1) Surgery through front of neck to repair area, and would use bone from my hip for fusion.  Recovery (ability to drive, etc.) 3 - 4 weeks - stay in neck brace during recovery.

2) Surgery through front of neck, use bone from "bone bank" vs. my hip, then put in titanium plate.  No neck brace required after surgery, and about 3 weeks recovery.

I would like any kind of input regarding each procedure and which is more widely acknowledged among neurosurgeons.  Thank you so much.

If anyone else is reading this posting, and would like to send me their experience, I'd like to hear from you. ***@****

Thank you.
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Avatar_n_tn
Dear Lauren:

I will assume that you have already talked with your rehab specialist and PT and they, together with you have decided that the only, the only, thing left is surgery to correct your problem.  Without alternatives, you are now a surgical candidate.  Either procedure will work, the one that is most familiar with the surgeon is the one you should go with.  Most of the surgeries have a fair chance of achieving pain freedom.  There are potential problems with each and I am sure the surgeons have gone over them with you.  Ask your rehab specialist and PT what the outcome of each has been with their experience.  Spinal surgery is very surgeon specific as well as the outcome.  Let us know how things turn out.

Sincerely,

CCF Neuro MD
8 Comments
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Avatar_n_tn
I read what you wrote...and I had surgery about 2 years ago. They went in from the neck which I think was much better - no risk of them tampering with the spinal cord.  I also used the disk from the bank and not from me - no matter what they said - if they were to use your own for fusion you are looking for a more prolonged recovery period.

That is just my advice....I'm not a doctor just someone who has had 2 disks replaced one disk was broken and the other one herniated....
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Avatar_n_tn
There are a lot of people who have been through these procedures at the Mass General Neurology web forums - spinal disorders 2 message board.

Post over there and you will have answers within a few hours, if not minutes. Put "newbie" in the title. That will increase the response. They have also compiled lists of preparing for the surgery and recovery. Great tips.

Here is the link.
http://neuro-mancer.mgh.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/forumdisplay.cgi?action=topics&number=212&SUBMIT=Go

Best wishes.
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Avatar_n_tn
HELLO FELLOW DISKOS. IN 1994 I WAS DIAGNOSED AS HAVIVG HERNIATED PROLASPSED DISKS AT T9 AND T10.THEY WERE CAUSING CORD COMPRESSION. GOT THE USUAL ADVISE, IF WE DONT OPERATE YOU WILL MORE THAN LIKELY BE A PARAPLEGIC.
IN JUNE 94 OPERATION PERFORMED, HAD A GREAT, RELATIVELY PAIN FREE RECOVERY.
I REPORTED FOR MY SIX WEEK CHECK UP AND COMMENTED THAT MY LEGS WERE JUMPING, AND A BURNING SENSATION BETWEEN SHOULDER BLADES.
SPCIALISTS ORDERED MRI TO SETTLE ANY UNFOUNDED THOUGHTS ON MY PART, AS HE PUT IT.
MRI SHOWED MORE EXCRUSSION OF MATTER CAUSING FURTHER CORD COMPRESSION, ANOTHER OPERATION WAS ARRANGED, AND PERFORMED IN OCTOBER THAT YEAR, AT SAME SITE T 9 T 10.
I WOKE IN RECOVERY ROOM, SURGEON LOOKING AT ME WITH FORLORN
EXPRESSION I COULD TELL THERE WAS A PROBLEM JUST BY LOOKING AT HIM. HE SAID AND I QUOTE, SORRY DUE TO MASSIVE SCAR TISSUE COULDNT REACH THE VERY CRITICAL AREA, HE WOULD TRANSFER ME TO THE PUBLIC HOSP, AND EMPLOY THE HELP OF A THORACIC SURGEON.
THS HE DID, REOPERATED 3 DAYS LATER, MRI SHOULD DISKS FRAGMENTS, AND THIS WAS THE LAST I SAW OF THE SPECIALIST.

I AM RELATETING THIS STORY TO YOU AS IM NOW HOOKED ON MST, HAD PUMP FOR 38 DAYS IN THE HOSPITAL. SEVERAL OTHER HEAVY MEDS, AND YOU JUST NEVER WILL BE ABLE TO KNOW JUST HOW THE PAIN, AND THE CONSEQUENCES OF THAT  PAIN HAVE VERY NEARLY DESTROYED MY LIFE. IM 55, FEMALE, AND CONSIDER MYSLF TO BE PRETTY TOUGH.
KNOWING WHAT I KNOW NOW, I DONT SAY THIS LIGHTLY, BUT I WUOLD RATHER HAVE LOST THE USE IF MY LEGS, THAN LOSE MY LOVE OF LIFE. MY LOVE OF MY HUSBAND, IVE LOSSED MY JOB, SELFESTEEM, I COULD GO AN ON THE LIST IS ENDLESS.
PLEASE.PLEASE ANYONE THINKING SURGERY IS STRAITH FORWARD, BE WARNED IN THE SPACE OF A FEW WEEKS MY LIFE WA TOTALLY DESTROYED. BE CAREFUL. AND GET SEVERAL OPINIONS BERFOR TAKING THAT STEP.

TAKE CARE MY FRIENDS.
CHEERS A KIWI
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Avatar_n_tn
I had a titanium strut and replaced bone from my own hip in a frontal access surgery in December.  Things are basically fine - no pain in the neck region, everything seems stable (fingers crossed).  I was 6 weeks in a soft neck brace (no big deal, got to wear lots of scarves over it).  The neck scar is not bad.  The hip is a bit tender, but haven't had trouble walking.  I was up walking the day after surgery, and I'd guess that since I had the combo of variables NOT presented to you (although bone bank was discussed at one point) you shouldn't sweat the details too much.  The surgery itself was a good thing in my case.  But the message from "A Kiwi" was very sobering - my deepest sympathies go to her and we should keep in mind that surgery is a risky proposition.
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Avatar_n_tn
I suggest you pray about it regardless of your religous beliefs.  I did, felt good about my decision NOT to have the surgery but the weakness in my arms and legs was getting worse.  My chiropractor could make that disappear in a matter of moments but it was very short lived, a day or two.  I knew he couldn't practice forever, and was already past retirement age, and I was too afraid to have anyone else give me adjustments.  It was very effective for my pain also, but that too was short lived.  If you see a chiropractor at all I would suggest you see a Palmer College graduate, that is where mine came from.  As far as your surgery is concerned, I went ahead with mine.  I had a large herniation at C-6, C-7 and it was pushing into my spinal cord.  I had the frontal discectomy with my own hip bone (I had heard cadaver bones sometimes do not fuse like your own, and preferred to have something from my own body regardless of what anyone said) and a titanium plate.  Well, I had pain, numbness, weakness before the surgery.  I don't have the weakness anything like that now.  But my pain has worsened, I am unable to return to work, had surgery a year and a half ago.  A recent MRI shows that the screws used to secure the plate are all the way through and along with the ends of those I have enough scar tissue to make up for the space that the bulging disc did to begin with.  I just turned 39 and I am not a very happy person.  I have talked to other people that had the exact same thing and theirs worked out wonderfully.  I didn't even find out what my problem was until over a year later after my accident the long time might have something to do with my problems with my pain.  Ask about muscles and ligaments that might have been torn or damaged.  Nerves also.  I pray everything works out for you, whatever your decision, but ask, ask, ask, and ask again, anything and everything that you might be wondering about.  If you have to, write a note.  Good luck, and may God bless.  Vicster.
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Avatar_n_tn
Read the messages and had my own thoughts based on current experiences.  There may be alternatives to surgery, such as going to see a Mackenzie therapist.  They seem to have a great success of eliminating pain from herniated disks without the need for surgery.  Ever since my first back surgery for scoliosis("No problems, you'll be fine")my life has been a disaster. I am on continued medical leave from work, which means I work at home when I can and I work in my office for as long as I can tolerate it, while still trying to actually accomplish something I was hired for.  The chronic pain has affected my quality of life and my marriage substantially and I won't even talk about the meds.  And, ending up with failed back surgery is more commen that you would think.  Look for a third opinion and a nonsurgical opinion and ask tons of questions.  Surgery is a big step with not always the bet outcomes. And, most doctors will not present the full truth prior to the surgery.  Good luck.
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Avatar_n_tn
I had to have sev disk removed on may 15 2001 due to severe spinal stenosis..disk levels c34 c45 c56  I rec. a bone bank replacement w/ a approx 6 inch plate.  My dr. which was great went in thru the front and I was in a soft collar for approx 6 days however after this I exp. sev. numb and unable to move for 10-15 seconds.. and have now been diagnosed with horners syndrome. due to the surgery
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