View Full Version : Surgery in 1982 - having problems now

28th August 2004, 08:44 AM
I had surgery in 1982, a spinal fusion for a double curve (thoracic and lumbar) with Harrington rod. I'm looking for people who had similar surgery in same area in same time frame (early 80's). I'm just now starting to have some more serious problems that are apparently permanent and I'd like to speak with others and find out what type of problems they are having and how they are dealing with it.

I've always had a certain amount of pain all along, like soreness in the SI joints when trying to bend side to side. Sore back with too much sitting, standing, etc. At least more than the average person.

But since last fall/early this year, I have developed a sometimes severe pain in the right hip with tingling down the leg. I thought I had piriformis syndrome, where the sciatic nerve goes thru the piriformis muscle instead of over or under, and the inflammed muscle will cause problems with the sciatic nerve. But now after speaking with several doctor's I don't think that's the case. The pain never goes away now and I have the tingling on and off all the time. I had two "incidents" so far this year where I woke up and couldn't hardly move, practially crawled to the doctor's office! An MRI didn't show anything but the expected degeneration in the L4,5 and some inflammation.

I have been told I will just have to manage the pain until I get bad enough that I need surgery, in which they will fuse to the pelvis. Well, I don't think so!

I am taking Vioxx now, for about 3 months, and all it does is keep the pain tolerable. I am not comfortable enough to go on the 4-5 mile walks I used to, or do any type of exercise.

Is anyone having these same problems? How are you dealing with them and what have you found out? My intention is that when it gets to the intolerable point, I will seek out a specialist, perhaps the scoliosis center in St. Paul since it's fairly close to me.

Any info would be helpful, but I am really looking for people with the same type of pain that can offer some advice.

Thank you!!

28th August 2004, 09:30 AM
Hi Candy,
Welcome to SSO. :welcome: I'm just 37 and had surgery in 1983.I have degenerated discs above and below the fusion mass and the discs are under great biomechanical strain.I'm not as symptomatic as you but I have facet joint degeneration in my neck which can be very painful.How far down was your fusion?I've had some strange symptoms like loss of control over my left arm and temporary loss of sensation in my legs on three occasions in the last 5 years.
It's a great idea to get the opinion of a surgeon who is experienced in revision surgery.I agree that I would hate to have fusion to the pelvis.There are new solutions coming along.Two of our members have had disc replacements as an alternative to extended fusion, although I haven't seen the Lady with the Lumbar disc replacement for a while.
Explore all options and take the time to get a proper evaluation of your pain.Our site owner Titch has had revision surgery almost two years ago for a condition called flatback.

28th August 2004, 10:32 AM
Thanks for the response. My fusion starts in somewhere around T2-4 and extends down to I think L2 or 3. I'm a little vague on this but I think the doctors have told me that L3,4 are my only functioning discs. One MD did say that maybe by the time I need surgery, disc replacement would be an option, but I got the impression it's not something that is being done now. But it's good to hear that from you, that other's have had it. The Orthopedic Surgeon is the one who mentioned further fusion. I will definitely explore all options though. This particular OS didn't seem interested in spending a lot of time talking with me, just said basically to live with it. I'm new to these bulletin boards but over just the last couple of days what I have read from others has made me feel "not so alone". Apparently there is a wide range of problems and mine are "normal" and to be expected. That does help some because I was very worried I had something wrong with me. Although I would rather have something wrong that can be fixed!

28th August 2004, 11:26 AM
Hi Candy!

Glad you found us :welcome2:

I agree with sins that getting a proper evaluation of your back, from a reputable scoliosis specialist is the way to go here, although there can be a lot of difference in approach even between specialists.

Although I didn't have a Harrington rod, and in fact had my surgery in 1994, because it was done by a non-specialist surgeon I went on to develop problems similar to those typically seen with Harringtons. For a long time, I didn't realise what was happening to me, so the pain and discomfort and other problems kind of crept up on me, although they were getting pretty bad. Then I had a major fall, on ice, at the end of 1999, and things really went downhill from there.

Between the fact I landed smack on my right SI, and then some of the subsequent symptoms, I too ended up wondering if at least some of my pain was due to piriformis syndrome. I do still get occasional flares of this - my left piriformis spasms sometimes, but luckily this passes these days rather than the state of permanent low grade spasm that both piriformis muscles used to be in - my left would knot so badly that it would externally rotate my hip, and I'd have great difficulty walking even when there wasn't much pain.

I eventually got a referral to a specialist, and found out that in my case I had a kyphosis over the length of my fusion, which by that point had me leaning forward by several inches, but more importantly in terms of pain I had almost complete degeneration of my L2-3 disc, immediately below the fusion.

My revision/salvage surgery was done by another surgeon, who I got a second opinion with. Although they both suggested broadly similar surgeries, the first surgeon wanted also to do an anterior surgery to remove the offending disc, and recommended waiting as long as possible before doing it, and said that it was unlikely to get significantly worse or cause additional problems, so waiting until it was unbearable was the best course (although he admitted that only I could say what was unbearable, and had made clear to me that he felt it likely wouldn't be too long before I was unable to work even part time). However, the second surgeon recommended that in his experience with a disc as badly degenerated as mine was, immobilisation would help the pain as much as removal, and as I was going to require fusion to at least that level to correct the kyphosis, he felt this was the best course of action. He also took a completely opposed view regarding when to do the surgery, that there was no point in waiting, because things were only going to get worse (of course the NHS being what it is, I then waited nearly 18 months for my surgery). Luckily, my surgery has been pretty successful - I have some ongoing problems, but with the severity of problems that I had before the surgery, that isn't too surprising. I've been lucky to recover as well as I have done.

The hospital where I had my surgery is the same place that another member had her lumbar disc replacement, which I believe was L4-5 - she, like you, has a Harrington rod based fusion from the early or mid 80s. Until recently disc replacements were only being offered to people with single level problems, and no history of any other issues or problems with their backs, however here in the UK they are now being done for suitable candidates with long fusions, both for lumbar and (at a different hospital) cervical disc replacements.

Ask anything you need to, and I really hope you can get the help you need as soon as possible :-)

28th August 2004, 12:25 PM
Wow, thanks for sharing. Funny thing is, I fell on the ice twice last fall and that's what started my problems, or rather aggravated existing ones to a higher level. I started with one problem, in the SI joint, and saw the chiropractor many times thinking it was out of place. Then the hip and sciatic pain started in. The chiro kept telling me it's not out of place and that's when I went to an MD. It's like several distinct problems all at the same time. Do you think the falling set it off? Makes me wonder. The information you've shared is very helpful.

28th August 2004, 01:50 PM
Hi Candy welcome to sso :welcome: :welcome2: i havent had any surgery yet

28th August 2004, 06:57 PM
Hi Candy. I havent had surgury, just a brace but I wanted to wish you a warm welcome. You will love it here!

29th August 2004, 12:02 AM
hi candy welcome to sso i had my spinal fusion june 26th 2003

29th August 2004, 01:15 AM
Hey! Welcome to SSO! My name is lindsay and i'm 15 and i'm getting sugeory november 10th

29th August 2004, 01:20 AM
hey Candy, I can't help you, as I had my surgery just over a year ago, but I'd like to also welcome you to SSO. Welcome!

30th August 2004, 11:17 AM
Hi Candy and welcome to our family .I had a Harrington rod in 1976 and have suffered with pain in the sciatica region and my neck for many years .I had a Byant disc replacement in my neck earlier this year after I kept losing all the feeling in my arm .I'm waiting to go back to see how bad the discs below my fusion are as they are playing up a bit but I do put them through quite a lot as I still love playing sport and wont rest up . There are now replacing all discs but in a lot of countries this is still a trial operation , I would only have a pelvic fusion as a last result and would hold on and see if a new disc is an option .It may be best to find a surgeon that does the Op .I would like to say my neck was a hundred percent better but it hurts like hell right now but thats probably due to a heavy landing on my paraglider .Hope to chat soon , take care .Pikey.