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Spinal Cord Disorders Message Board

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Non Fusion Option
Jan 5, 2007
Happy New Year-

I've been a frequent poster on this board for over 6 months now, it was extremely helpful to me when I needed it pre-surgery, and I have tried my best to continue to come on here and help people make informative decisions about their medical options...

I wanted to make a new post about the choice I made regarding my cervical disc herniations, not so much to convince people it's the [B][I]best[/I][/B] way to go, but to let them know that there are other options that do not involve fusion that MAY help their situation. I think the majority of doctors tell patients that FUSION is their ONLY choice, and that is simply not true in all cases. I chose a non-fusion option back in August, and now nearly 6 months later I am very confident in saying that the procedure worked for me. I am pain free, and I am back to doing anything and everything that I did before the herniations. And, I still have fusion, or disc replacement available as options should anything every regress...let's hope not!!

I had disc herniations at C5-6 and C6-7, with severe pain running down my right arm. No known defined cause. Never in a car wreck, never fell of a roof, etc. More than likely an old sports injury that eventually got worse as the years and POUNDS added on!! Initially I found relief through cervical traction and an epidural now and then. After about one year those methods were exhausted to the point where doctors felt surgery was my only choice for pain relief.

I had 5 different doctors tell me fusion was my only option- much to my disappointment. I am 39- not young, not old- and I have two little boys. I didn't like reading about the "adjacent level theory", where once you have fusion there is the potential to need it at other levels. I also didn't like that once the disc was removed and the vertabrae fused, there was no going back. With medical technology advancing the way it does, and with the potential for artificial disc replacement becoming the norm in the future, I wanted to leave as many options open as possible in the years to come.

I scoured the internet for months looking for any and all other options. There are a handful of doctors/facilities in the country that offer minimally invasive, non-fusion choices. I found a doctor in Lake Worth Florida- Dr. Merrill Reuter, at Advanced Orthopaedics of South Florida- who performs minimally invasive procedures WITHOUT fusion. It did cost $200 to send my MRI's, etc to him for review- with no guarantee that he would be able to help- but in the end it was $$$ extremely well spent.

The procedure, as I understand it, may not work if your pain is a result of BONE SPURS vs. DISC HERNIATIONS. BUT DON'T HOLD ME TO THAT, if you're interested at all, I suggest you look into Dr. Reuter and let them tell you for sure.

I went to Florida, had a discogram done which confirmed that in my case it was the herniations and not spurs that were causing my pain.

They essentially go in endoscopically through the front of the neck- anterior- and remove the nucleus of the discs, which is the part that is leaking, or herniated. My scar is nearly non-existent. There is no way you could tell unless I pointed it out to you. They then laser the tears shut, and inject a gel made of your own platelets to fill the void where the nucleus was. Basically to pump the disc-back up. It was an out patient procedure, although since I was from out of town they had me stay in Florida for a week before letting me come home. Luckily I have family there so that was no problem. And who doesn't mind a trip to Florida?? I was in a semi-hard collar for a few weeks, no driving allowed, which was a pain. And then in a soft collar as needed for a few weeks after that. It took awhile to for the stiffness/soreness in my neck to go away, and it further took a few months for my nerves to heal. But I am no longer on any meds whatsoever, and aside from a random massage, or ice packs now and then if I overdo, I am totally back at it...

Anyhow, I'm hoping you'll see this post, take the time to read it, and factor it into your decision process. In my case, I feel very fortunate and satisfied that I took the time to learn more about this option.

Whatever you decide, I hope you find the comfort and relief from your pain that I have...

Good luck

Hi! I too have been to Dr. Merrill Reuter in Lake Worth, FL! the man is genius! He is well worth the time, effort and money. AMEN 100%

Had discectomy Feb. 2003 non fusion and had wicked horrid headaches C4/5 area.... and haven't had ONE headache since the day of the surgery!


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