Friday, 29 April 2005

In December I had a minimally-invasive surgical procedure done on my lower back to try to help correct a herniated disc down there in my spine at the L5/S1 joint (that's just below hip level). The end result was a limited success, and I am pretty much back where I was before the procedure nowadays, as far as the back/leg pain, numbness and reduced motor skills in my legs go.

The original procedure was no guarantee, but we had high hopes. I decided a minimally-invasive procedure - one that would not require any permanent changes, cutting or physical limitations - was a good first shot to take. It just didn't work out as well as I would have liked.

MRI picture to gross people outSo, I have seen three highly-recommended doctors recently to talk with them about what can be done to help. I am in some level of pain 24/7, I wake up several times every night from the pain, and I am basically restricting my own activity so much that I am becoming fairly miserable and generally unhappy in life. I can't stand for any period of time, I can't stay seated for very long, walking any real distance is painful, lying down requires me to shift around constantly (hence waking up from pain), and really the only position that I can get into that gives me some relief is whatever position I am not in at the time.

The doctor who did the procedure in December told me he thought there were a few remaining possibilities for me: Live with it (always an option), maybe do a microsdiscectomy (an iffy proposition), bone fusion of the joint, or artificial disc replacement.

And, as it turns out, each of these three doctors I consulted with came to pretty much the same conclusion: The only thing that will work for me at this point is removal of the bad disc, followed by either fusing the joint or replacing the disc with an artificial one. Both methods have been around for a while. Artificial discs received FDA approval in the U.S. last year.

It's been very interesting (and enlightening) to visit three neurological surgeons with no information other than my MRI films and a verbal history of my pain and medical care, to see what they would tell me. I did not tell any of them what the other docs said or thought or diagnosed, but all three came up with the same result. That's encouraging, at least in terms of knowing where I really stand. Of course, the idea that I need a fairly major surgery to be better is a little intimidating. But, one further point of encouragement is the fact that all three doctors were quite confident that surgery would make a huge difference in my quality of life. All three said that I am practically the perfect candidate to benefit in a huge way from the procedure.

Then I started thinking about whether it's the "right" thing to do - Is it right to cut into your body and remove parts or put in fake parts? These thoughts keep going through my mind and I'm actually a bit surprised. I guess I just never had the chance to think them before now.

So now comes the decision. Oh boy, this is definitely not the easiest part. Deciding which doctors (it takes two - a vascular surgeon as well as the neurological surgeon), when to have it done (if at all), and which procedure is the best option for me. Not to mention the health insurance company part - who knows what they'll have to say.

A fusion means six to nine months of take-it-easy time, and a longer period of relative inactivity (that includes work). An artificial disc does not have the healing time (there is no fusion process to worry about) and so return to work/normal life is much faster. Fusion has been around for a long, long time. Artificial discs are newer - especially in the U.S. - but have been around for about 15 or so years.

The actual surgical procedure followed to do either the disc replacement or the fusion is pretty much identical. The only real difference is what goes between the vertebrae once they get to where they're headed - some metal cages, some bone, or the artificial disc. Getting in there and closing up is virtually the same.

Anyhow, if anyone who reads this also happens to have received an artificial disc (or knows someone who has), please let me know - I'd like to communicate with you. Also, anyone who's had a fusion, same deal - please contact me by commenting on this post, or click the mail icon over in the navigation sidebar.

Add/Read: Comments [6]
Kineflex Artificial Disc Surgery | Personal Stories | Random Stuff
Friday, 29 April 2005 19:19:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Friday, 29 April 2005 21:16:21 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Wow, Greg. That's a heck of a decision to make. I hope everything works out for you - you'll be in my thoughts.

Let me know if there's anything I can do to help, and best wishes for a speedy recovery!

Friday, 29 April 2005 23:58:56 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
I'm glad to hear you've done all the "homework" on your options. These decisions are difficult at best, know you're not alone. We are all standing behind you. :) If there's anything we can do just holler!
Sunday, 01 May 2005 19:47:54 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Greg, WOW! This is a big decison to make! My father had back surgery some time ago, he had a herniated disc. The way I understand it is that he had removal of the gel like "stuff" that surrounds the disc, that was causing the pain and pushing on the disc. The doc did tell him it was one of the worst he had seen on my Dad. He had the procedure at The Guthrie Clinic/Robert Packer Hospt, in Sayre PA. He did not have any bone fusion or artificial disc replaced. You can definitely chat with him about this, he may better explain what he had done & give you some insight of what he had done and how he felt after the surgery. Mare =)
Mary Beth
Sunday, 07 August 2005 07:25:43 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
You might look into this, it's definitely less invasive. At the very least it's an interesting read. Good luck.
Kevin Connor
Saturday, 10 September 2005 21:38:24 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
if you haven't found this website already, you need to check out, it full of information as well as plenty of people who have had ADR
Saturday, 11 February 2006 12:55:48 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Yes, is excellent. I found it in early 2005, and have frequented that site off an on since. Great source of info and support. The forums are great.
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