Mark's Story, August 2011

My surgery was last September. During the laminectomy (decompression) essentially the surgeon removes the spinous process or the ridge down the middle of your spine to relieve spinal stenosis. I had stenosis that was as narrow as 4 mm when 12-13 mm was normal. This relieves the pinching of the spinal column. It leaves the sides of the spine in space so there is no loss of structure. They leave the spine open, but there is a thick layer of tissue over the spine. I also had a foraminectomy which means they removed part of the bone on the side where the nerve roots exit the spine because I had pinched nerves there. I had it on L2-S1.

I was out of work for 6-8 weeks but really could have gone back sooner probably. I had immediate relief from sciatica. It does not relieve lower back pain; I should have also had a fusion of the same vertebrate but I have such severe DDD that there were no healthy disks below which to start the fusion. The surgeon said that if he started it anywhere it would not be long before the disks above would begin to be a problem and need additional fusion. So I have some remaining lower back pain but it so much better than when I had sciatica! From my experience it was a miracle!!

The foraminectomy was also L2-S1 but I believe one level did not need to be done once he got in there...

but because of the DDD if I had chosen fusion he only offered my entire spine after consideration and additional would have been much like scoliosis patients get because he was so sure the other disks would rupture, slip and/or collapse if he started the fusion at any other level...I may still need that if the disks get worse, but I am hopeful and holding out on having that done :/

I DID have a cervical fusion on C4-7 two years ago and I actually have increased motion in my neck because I was already not rotating my neck because of the disk issues and osteophytes in my neck.

If he had fused my spine I believe he would have had enough surgeon takes a pencil sized core from your pelvis for the bone graft...that is what he did for my cervical spine.

You are right to worry about permanent nerve damage, that is exactly why my surgeon said to have the surgery.

Also those traction decompression devices work, but it is only temporary relief.

Also spinal injections can be okay if done carefully and are only facet injections. Epidurals are another thing as they CAN or MAY lead to a terrible nerve fusion called Arachnoiditis that occurs because the nerves react to the injections and then start growing into one another—THAT has no relief surgical or otherwise at this time. I refused them for that reason, plus the relief they provide is temporary if at all. just my two cents.

I think the Laminectomy and foraminectomies were somewhere around 2-3 hours together. The surgeon was complaining afterward because I have strong bones and his hands hurt after removing so much bone. LOL.

I have complete flexibility after the laminectomy and foraminectomies. Of course it was not immediately, but after the incision healed and a limited amount of PT my lower back is great. It does not effect the flexibility at all and in fact I believe flexibility is increased...I am now less than 6 months post surgery for that and to be honest I really do not think about my lower back at all compared to before (but I also am dealing with the knee and hip so...who knows... :) .

The most important thing I can stress if she (R's sister) goes the surgical route is find a surgeon that is highly recommended especially by nursing staff, ask a lot of questions, and be sure the surgeon ONLY does spinal surgery—it really is a specialty!!

Mark's response to a question about the value of taking an anatomy class:

It has helped me understand what is causing the pain, understand what the doctor says is the cause, and why certain procedures are what he is using and not others, and it has helped me determine when I am ready to go ahead with certain treatments and not with others.  If I did not have that background, I would have a lot more fear of certain procedures and I would be asking a thousand more questions.

When I look at an X-ray or MRI, I understand what the doc says he is finding, and I can really see when he points out the problem areas...Thinking about it, I would have made decisions solely on whether it would provide pain relief and what I'd heard from other's results rather than to understand what the surgeon is telling me about possible outcomes, rates of success and understanding what he is going to do or what non-surgical treatments are being recommended and what the possible side-effects are and why they are either temporary or possibly permanent. 

In short - GREAT QUESTION!  and definitely it has made a world of difference for me, and I think for the amount of detailed information the doctors are willing to share with me...



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