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T9-10 Ruptured Discs

  Dear Sir,
      I fell at work in 3/95 falling on my right side. I have a buldging disc at the
  C6-7 and a ruptured disc at the T9-10 and have L5-S1 diskectomy/laminectomy in
  1996. They just found the ruptured discs at the T9-10. I have pain in my neck
  shoulders, right arm and also have problems with my hands going to sleep at night.
  My question is What is the long term prognosis of the ruptured discs at the thoracic
  level if not corrected with surgery. I have started experiencing pain in my right
  rib and am using a tens unit and taking pain medication. The surgery I understand
  presents lots of complications. Can micro laser surgery be performed at this level and
  can you recommend anyone in Texas that performs this type of surgery?
      Will I eventually be wheelchair bound if I don't have the surgery to correct
  the ruptured discs or is the combination of the 3 discs (cervical,thoracic and
  lumbar) going to eventually leave me incapacitated? What does the future hold
  for someone with this kind of spinal damage? Again, what is the long term
  prognosis of someone in my position. I have not been able to work because I can't
  sit long, stand long, walk long or perform any activity that demands repetitive
  movements (such as typing). I am hurting worse every day from the pain in my
  thoracic back and feel like I probably need the surgery but also feel I am not
  a good candidate for surgery because I have gained so much weight since my injury
  in 95 and have taken so many steriods and medications that cause weight gain.
  I hope I haven't bombarded you with too many questions. Terribly confused as
  to what I should do.What are the pros and cons of having surgery versus not
  having surgery?
     Thank you for your time.
                       Denise Riley
Dear Denise,
Symptoms from a ruptured disc will depend upon what level the disc resides.  In the cervical region at C5-6 one would experience experience numbness and pain radiating down the arm into the thumb and weakness may be noted later in the process in the bicep muscle.  In the thoracic spine the pain would be at the level of the disc, radiating around to the front of the body.  A severely herniated disc at either level could cause leg weakness and possibly bowel and bladder dysfunction.
Most herniated discs can be treated conservatively as they will shrink and resorb with time.  If after 6-8 weeks of rest a patient is still having pain or weakness from a disc, surgery may be considered.  Often this decision is based upon the patient's tolerance of the symptoms and the impairment of daily activities.
From what you describe, you likely are having problems from both discs.  Your surgeon should be able to tell you which area is the worst in terms of herniation and which disc will require surgery, if any.  
If a patient were to do nothing in light of a herniated disc it could do one of a few things.  The disc could shrink away, as most often occurs, and the vertebrae above and below the level would eventually fuse together.  Alternatively, there could be more disc herniation during this period.  The entire process to fusion can take years.
Again, speak to your surgeon as to which disc, if any, may need treatment at this time.
Good luck.

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