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Severe Cervical Stenosis


I am a 52 year old female.I have recently had an MRI done of my cervical spine and the results have me floored. According to my neurologist I have 3 badly herniated disc's in my C-Spine causing a severe central cord stenosis. Also he said the MRI showed a "signal cord change". The disc's are as I remember C4-C5 and C6. He referred me to a surgeon who wants to do a discetomy using cadaver bone graph and BMP with plates and screws. They say their goal of this surgery is to keep my spine from getting worse. Both the surgeon and my neurologist cautioned me not to fall or get in a car wreck because I could end up dead or paralyzed from the neck down. I am being fitted for a cervical collar next week.

Over the years I have had severe shoulder pain and neck pain. I do have an ongoing problem with my lumbar spine W/ some herniated disc's that my physical medicine doc says is causing left leg weakness and nerve pain going from the knee down to my ankle. I also get severe nerve pains in different area's of my thigh along with numbness.
I also have rheumatold arthritis, so the shoulder pain I have had and the neck pain too I figured was the RA. Now I am certain it is from the stenosis. I also have mild carpal tunnel syndrome. So, I am concerned with what is coming from my lumbar area, my cervical spine and what is from the RA.

I guess my questions are,

When is surgery warranted?

What does cord signal change mean exactly?

Can myleopathy come and go?

2 Responses
Avatar universal
I'm sorry, I forgot to add that they want to do a 3 level discetomy.
Avatar universal
I, too, have cervical disks compressing my spinal cord.  In my case, I do not yet have myelopathy (cord damage).  I am being followed by a big name clinic and just returned from a follow up appointment there.  

The way it was explained to me is that a bright spot (signal change) on the mri indicates cord damage and warrants surgery.  If they had found a bright spot on my mri and/or neurological deficts on the physical exam like reflex changes, decreased strength, gait abnormalities, babinski sign, etc, they "would not have even let me go out of there."

The disks, in trying to stabilize themselves, form bone spurs.  These spurs futher compress and damage the spinal cord.  The formation of the spurs can be fast or slow.  At one point, before they knew how fast mine was going to progress, I was also told not to fall down.  I know how scary this can be.  

Did they do an EMG on you?  This can show nerve and/or muscle damage.  

They explained to me that the goal of the surgery, if and when I need it, is simply to take the pressure off the spinal cord and prevent further damage or paralysis.  It often doesn't do much for your pain and can make things worse in that regard.

It sounds like your case is more severe than mine.  My advice to you would be to get a second opinion as soon as possible.  You should be dealing with a neurosurgeon and not an orthopedic surgeon.  

If you develop any of the following symptoms, seek help immediately.  This is an emergency.

-weakness in the arms and/or legs.
-Tingling, numbness or pain in the arms and/or legs
-Loss of bowel and/or bladder control

Try to learn everthing you can regarding your condition.  I know that when I first found out about my problems, I didn't even want to think about it.  It is very scary but eventually I learned to accept it.  I am fortunate in that I have had plenty time to "come around" and also have an excellent neurologist.  A good doctor can make all the difference in the world when dealing with this.  

When researching your problem, remember too that most of the people with similar problems who post on these boards are the ones who either are scared to death or have had failed surgeries.  The ones who have had succesful surgeries no longer post.  They have gone on with their lives.

I hope this helps.  

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