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family doctor wants my brother to have back surgery

Started by backpain1 on 06/10/2011 5:05pm

hello i am writing for my 53 year old brother. he has experienced excruciating back buttock leg pain. the dr gave him pain killers to stop it. he had an mri which stated he has 3 discs crushed, which is spondylosis, spinal narrowing, spurs, arthritis, and rupture of disk impending on one of his nerve l5 s1. isn't there anything he can do besides surgery. he has started pt which has helped him somewhat. he couldn't even sit now he can. he can do his pt exercises better. the dr stopped his pt when the mri came back saying just have moist heat to area now. you will make everything worse. a chiropractor isn't good he will fracture another disc for you when he asked about a chiropractor. the dr scheduled my brother with an orthopedic surgean nothing else. i am afraid for him please someone help thank you

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3 Responses


I wonder why the family doc is so concerned about the stability of your brother's spine. If he's right, it's fairly emergent -- get to an NEUROSURGEON. Here is what I've learned with this disease: You can't be passive. Ask lots of questions and explore everything. I had the best success with two multidisciplinary groups -- a pain doc trained in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Half of his practice is PT. I limped in fearful of moving anything, and three months later was at least functional. PT and spinal injections helped; pain continues. Searching for a neurosurgeon - you want to find someone who several similar procedures every day!! Just ask! They know why you're asking. I ended up with another multidisciplinary group - surgery, PT, pain mgt, and pain counseling in a university setting (my preference is for teaching hospitals). The neurosurgeon has a light teaching load and does 3-5 procedures a day. Perfect. Hope this helps!


It's rather disconcerting the family doctors reaction. Nevertheless, your brother does need to see a neurosurgeon. But a neurosurgeon is just that, a surgeon. Surgeons live for surgery and will give you the good reasons that surgery is the key allowing an out, like saying no two patients respond the same.
Having said that, you still should see the experts and listen without making any decisions with a neurosurgeon.

Here are you first rounds of treatment. PT, exercise, stretching, etc. Next: Cortisone shots. If those fail, you can try Facet injections. All along there should be some sort of pain management doctor to dispense medication, be it Tramadol, Vicadin, percocet, and a number of different anti-inflammatories. Put surgery off as long as reasonably possible. It's no fun, bad things happen, and new things come up all the time.

I would definitely get at least two opinions. You will have to be your best advocate as the buck really stops with you. So you must do your homework, know what to ask, and don't be steam rolled. They do this for a living and have given the speech a million times. Make sure you have the questions you want answered before you go and write them down. Don't let then skirt the issue. Hope you have access to excellent doctors and how to choose them.

Best of luck. You will eventually need surgery, it sounds. Just not today or tomorrow unless your spinal chord is being jeopardized.


Two things, right off the bat, in reference to what others have said: DO NOT go to a chiropractor. If you have an unstable spine, a chiro will make it worse; conversely, there is no way they can fix a lower back with their hands and "adjustments".

Next, DO NOT worry about your "spinal cord", as someone suggested might happen. The lower back is not connected directly to the spinal cord, but there are main nerves going to the bowel, bladder, legs that can be bothered. In fact, if your brother's doctor felt that he was in jeopardy of suffering from Cauda Equina Syndrome, he would most certainly need emergency surgery.

What does your brother's doctor suggest as far as back surgery? Fusion or just a laminectomy (decompression)? I would very strong suggest that, if your brother does indeed need surgery, he look for a spine specialist, a surgeon who only does back surgeries and is medically qualified in both ortho- and neurosurgery on the back. I think spineuniverse.com has a search function to find such a surgeon in his area. Good luck!