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Back Problems Message Board

Back Problems Board Index

I mostly read through the posts here on the helps me better understand my own spine issues and also makes me feel like I'm not alone. But right now I'm wondering how many folks have had the same issue as I have, and left surgery in far worse condition than they started in???

I'm 41 years old...and at the end of 2011 I started having what I would call "episodes" or "flare ups" of pain that started out as me feeling that I had slept wrong, with pain in my low back down through my hips. Eventually that pain got so bad that it would leave me curled up on the couch for days or a week at a time, barely able to walk to the bathroom.

In mid-2012 I stopped heading to the ER and went to my primary doctor to find out what was going on, and learned that I had Degenerative Disc Disease and severe facet arthrosis and facet hypertrophy - L4, L5, S1, bulging disc L5/S1, spinal stenosis with an osteophyte at L5. I tried every conservative treatment available - epidurals, physical therapy, aqua therapy, chiropractic, facet block, TENS unit - but ultimately made it through 2012 by taking prednisone and pain pills.

As the breadwinner of my family, I couldn't let this pain take over my life and leave me stuck laying in I began researching surgical options and sent my xrays and MRIs out to practices specializing in minimally invasive surgical procedures, until I found a practice and doctor that said he would be able to help, with an out-of-pocket cost that I could afford (since all of the centers were out of network). I went through the pre-surgery work up, and headed to Florida to have surgery in March 2013. I was scheduled to have a laminectomy, foraminotomy, partial facetectomy and rhizotomy, and on March 29th, I put my life and future in the hands of the doctor. I never recovered from that surgery, and my life has never been the same.

I left Florida and returned home to Virginia in the next few days. Being minimally invasive, I was scheduled to return to work in 2-3 weeks; however, at the end of the first week I not only didn't feel better, but my pain was worsening - every movement was agony. I wasn't able to sit for more than 10-20 minutes, stand for more than 10 minutes and walking to the bathroom was an accomplishment. I talked to that medical practice nearly every day for the next several months...having to pull teeth to get new imaging and diagnostic tests to figure out what was going on. I was told to take fish oil, I was prescribed more prednisone, I had more physical therapy, aqua therapy - none of it helped, the pain continued to get worse and with each test I was told everything looked "great" and to just be patient.

I was finally able to get into a reputable spine surgeon in Virginia in June 2013. They reviewed the MRI I had post-surgery and sent me for a CT and myelogram to help figure out what was going on. By July 1st I found out that everything definitely did not look "great", and that in fact, it was the surgeon who operated on me in Florida that had caused the worsening of my condition by completely removing my L5 inferior facet joint on the right instead of the partial facetectomy procedure that I was told about pre-surgery.

I have since received a 2nd and 3rd opinion indicating that this absent facet joint has caused mechanical spinal instability and an acquired spondylolisthesis that can only be repaired/corrected with a bi-level spinal fusion surgery...ironically this is the surgery I was trying to avoid by having the minimally invasive procedure. Each of these surgeons was able to pinpoint my issue within 5 minutes of reviewing my imaging (the surgeon who operated on me never found anything wrong with my imaging), and each of them told me about the same 50% "rule" - when you remove 50% or more of a joint it must be accompanied by a procedure to stabilize the spine (usually a fusion surgery). So...either this doctor has no understanding of this basic principal that every surgeon I have met since has, or...he deliberately disabled me and sent me home to suffer. Neither is of any comfort to me.

The surgeon eventually changed his tune, and I was contacted by the practice office manager who told me that the doctors of the practice had gotten together and reviewed my imaging and had decided that there was a problem, and that I needed a minimally invasive spine fusion surgery to fix it. I was offered money on a gift card to defray some travel expenses back to Florida. They worked directly with my insurance company - who refused it up to Appeal. It was denied in large part due to his inaccurate explanation/representation of my condition and the reason(s) that surgery is needed. It was after this request and denial that I learned that he was the reason I need this additional surgery.

Here I am today, coming up to 1 year post-surgery in a couple of months. I lost my job, my disability benefits have exhausted and I had to file for Social Security Disability since I am barely able to sit, stand or walk, let alone work. I take Oxycontin for pain, and oxycodone for break through pain - and it's still hard to make it through each day. The surgeons I've worked with after the surgery made it clear that what I'm experiencing is not a bad outcome from a good surgery, but rather, I was told that this doctor "really screwed up" - with one surgeon putting that in his medical report as the reason I now need surgery. I've finally found an attorney willing to help (most of the malpractice attorneys I came across won't touch a back surgery case with a 10ft pole), and while the idea of this doctor having to pay for leaving me like this makes me feel validated - I will never get my life back.

I have beat myself up almost daily over the past year for making the decision to move forward with surgery. I did everything I was supposed to - I researched the procedures, educated myself on my medical diagnoses, checked out the doctor (license, malpractice, etc.)...and still today, I can't see how I would have done anything different. I was in pain and feeling desperate and this doctor told me that what I had was easily fixed with minimally invasive surgery. I was supposed to be 80% better in a month...with the rest of the 20% over 3 months...leaving me with manageable pain, if any. That.never.happened.

If you've gotten this far, you probably need a good book to read, lol...but seriously, if you have, thanks for taking the time to read. If anyone were to talk to me today about their back pain, I would urge them to try every possible conservative treatment first...and after that, to try again. I would tell them that pain management is not just pain medications and procedures...but also, learning to accept the good with the bad...pain and no pain. After this long journey, that's what I'm left with anyway...that, and a missing piece of my spine. I remember reading a post where someone had mentioned having to make a decision between two really bad choices (remain in pain or have surgery), and I think that's a fair representation of what it's like to deal with the various disorders/diseases of the spine.

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