Sunday, May 19, 2013

Three Doctors Three Different Opinions on Whether Back Surgery Would Be Beneficial

Low Back PainMy sinus infection seems to finally be gone and I didn't start feeling normal again until Friday.  Thank goodness because it was rough not feeling good for an entire week.  On Friday morning, I went to see my orthopedic surgeon since it has been a while since I have seen him.  He sent me to a pain management specialist for treatment and didn't want to see me back until I was finished with his treatment plan.  I haven't seen my orthopedic doctor since October 2011 and I wanted to update him on my condition.  Plus, I wanted to know what his opinion was on my back since I have had two doctors telling me two different things regarding back surgery.

Disclosure:  This post is for informational purposes only.  The opinions and information in this post are based upon my own opinions and experience.

The visit went well but I left his office even more confused than ever.  He said that I was a good candidate for surgery if my insurance was willing to pay for it.  He said that I would need another MRI to confirm what type of surgery would be best based on the new the MRI results.  It has been about 18 months since I have had an MRI.  He said I have two options: spinal fusion or disc replacement.

The thought of having surgery at this point terrifies me and my gut instinct tell me that I would probably end up having multiple surgeries if I had surgery on my back.  I don't have any nerve pain at this point but if I did I wouldn't second guess having surgery.  I really just want to avoid having multiple surgeries n my back just like my grandmother.  She has had multiple back surgeries on her back and the surgeries never fully took her pain away.  I don't know what her surgeries were for or what caused her to have surgery in the first place.

My surgeon thinks that having surgery would resolve my pain and that the chances of making my pain worse is fairly slim.  However, my pain doctor said that a surgery would only give me a fifty to sixty percent chance of recovering from my back pain.  Then you toss in the state doctor's opinion.  The state doctor told me that he wouldn't recommend that I have surgery on my back because the disc above L5 wasn't fully healthy and that if I did surgery it would put too much pressure on the disc above resulting in the same type of pain years down the road.  My orthopedic surgeon disagree with his diagnosis and thought that my L4 was healthy enough for surgery but wanted to confirm that via MRI.

Yikes, three different doctors and three varying results.  I hate to keep going to the doctor for verification on the outcome of my back.  I want to avoid having surgery if at all possible but I also believe in  having a quality of life that is worth living.  If I had two doctors that gave me similar information then it would make the decision to have surgery or not on my back easier.

I have tried researching and talking to people who have back issues that are similar to mine to get their opinion, even though I know they aren't a doctor or seen my MRI.  I am just looking for success stories.  So far what I am seeing, is people have about 50% success rate.  If that is the case, then is surgery really worth trying?  It is all so confusing.   

The only alternative option would be to place a spinal cord simulator in my back to help relieve the pain so that I don't have to live on medication the rest of my life if I decide surgery isn't my best option.  Of course, this is another option, if I end up with a failed back surgery.

My main source of back pain comes from my L5-S1 disc in my lower back.  However, I also have arthritis and disc degeneration in upper back as well.  I wish that I never listened to the doctor's advice over 10 years ago when he told me that my MRI didn't show any significant damage and that I was young and would heal.  Here I am years later and my situation never improved.  I wish I would have pressed the issue then to find out the source of my pain.  Of course, that doctor thought I mostly had muscle injuries and that there wasn't anything wrong with my spine.  I realize that I am not a doctor and my long term muscle damage could have resulted in disc problems due to my body making compensations for sore muscles.

I have to seriously think about whether or not surgery is the best option and try to decide if it would be logical to seek another opinion.  I am just afraid that I would have a fourth doctor tell a totally different opinion.

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What made you decide to have back surgery?  If so, was your back surgery successful or not?