Friday, 17 February 2006

(This is not a techie post, but since there are many people out there asking how I am doing after surgery, I'll write about it here. It will also help me remember how things went and what happened when)

It's two days after my surgery, and I'm heading home this evening from the hospital, which I am looking forward to. This hospital is great (truly), but somehow the idea of having a fire in the fireplace and being in familiar surroundings is more appealing.

My body hurts, pretty bad. Like I got hit by a truck. but it's not the old pain, which is great. I can walk a short while (well, it's a lot like walking, but it's labored at best), and the physical therapist had me walk up and down a flight of training stairs. Who would have known it could be so much work? This is a lot like learning to walk all over again.

I was able to take a quick shower today (they do some fancy stuff with the incision when they close you up, and showering is actually a good thing to do once you're up to standing for that long). Thank goodness! The hot water helped relax some of my tense muscles.

Yesterday was hell. Starting with X-rays (which came out just fine), standing up was very painful - I had terrible muscle spasms in my lower back and legs, along with pain and nausea. Nothing like feeling nauseas and (forgive the graphical discussion) having to puke, which of course hurts like hell since your abdominal muscles contract hard each time. I'm glad that phase seems to be over with.

Kineflex-1More than a few people have asked me what exactly they did to my back during this surgery. I've decided its not a big secret or anything, and that in fact it's really very interesting. First they removed the inter-vertebral disc in the lowest part of my lower back, at the L5/S1 space. Discs in your back are the softer tissues between the bony vertebrae that act as shock absorbers and allow your back to move in all directions. think of them as like a little pillow filled with squishy stuff (well, sort of). Mine was herniated (torn and pooching out into the space where the nerves run) and degenerated (loss of water and height, thinner than it used to be). In other words, pretty much all ragged and shot. The medical term for the thinning and drying out of the disc is "Degenerative Disc Disease." You body won't correct it on it's own - the physical damage is done and it usually just gets worse over time.

Once they removed the bad disc, they put in an artificial disc replacement implant - a spinal prosthesis, you could say. It's called a Kineflex lumbar artificial disc, and you can see a quick video of what it looks like and how it works here. The Kineflex device is a newer design, and I received it through a study program that is comparing the Kineflex disc to the Charite disc as part of a FDA clinical trial in the United States (email or call me if you want some details - contact info is in the right-side menu bar). I did a lot of research - on fusion options, artificial disc options, do-nothing options, individual surgeons, etc - before I decided to go this route. Artificial discs are - in the right patients - an alternative to fusion of the two bones. The ADR devices don't act like a shock absorber (neither does fusion, for that matter), but they do retain close to natural motion in the joint. As you might imagine, it's a fairly expensive procedure, and at least for now insurance companies in the United States are rarely paying for the procedure because it's too new for them (the first model to get FDA approval was the Charite and that was in the fall of 2004), and they instead prefer the fusion route. That's the way health care works.

And for those people looking here for technical posts - well, sorry. They'll be back soon enough.



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Kineflex Artificial Disc Surgery | Personal Stories
Saturday, 18 February 2006 07:11:49 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
And I thought it sucked trying to make it through airport security with a belt on... they're going to think you're smuggling a remote detonator back there or something. Body cavity search AND bomb squad... maybe you should rent a car.
Sunday, 19 February 2006 20:29:26 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Hi Jason - Hehehe, I have actually been wondering about that since I traavel a lot. I am told there may be some form of official documentation to help deal with that potential problem. I have also been told that the device won't set off the metal detectors - not sure if I believe that one though. :)
Wednesday, 20 September 2006 22:08:53 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)
I am undergoing a combination fushion of L5-S1 and artificial disk in the two levels above it in 3 weeks. I travel a lot, but due to the healing process am not scheduled to board a plane until April 2007. I can hardly wait until I have to display a gnarly scar to convince the folks that I am not a terrorist. Let me know how it goes...
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