So I went to see a BrainSurgeon. Actually, I have seen two different BrainSurgeons and another NeuroDoc in the past few weeks. I guess, since the issue is my spine, that I should really call them SpineSurgeons, but BrainSurgeon is just that much more nerve-wracking. Nerve wracking -- get it? No? Fine, be that way.
Anyway, I initially saw BrainSurgeon1 on Oct 6. He's a good surgeon, and I have referred patients to him for 12 years. In fact, he operated on TheHusband's ruptured disc several years ago. He is extremely personable (yes, yes, he's a surgeon -- shocking, isn't it?). But he didn't listen to me and my concerns. We had a nice conversation -- we talked for about 45 minutes. However, much of that was him talking about using a dynamic stabilization device as part of the fusion procedure. Given that FDA has ordered companies that market these devices to conduct post-market studies in order to evaluate reported serious adverse events, I was understandably leery. But he just barrelled on, when I voiced my concerns. Given my other gait and spine related issues, I really think that these systems are a Bad Idea™. I am sure that no surgeon likes working on other doctors, especially one who is in a related field and Has Opinions. But those opinions should be listened to and acknowledged.
So after that exam, I spoke with a very nice and really smart Hopkins neurosurgery resident that I know. I showed him my MRI, described my symptoms, and asked him who he would let operate on his back if it looked my mine and he felt like I do. He gave me a name, called up BrainSurgeon2, and asked if he would see me. So I had an appointment with a Hopkins neurosurgeon within two weeks of that discussion. To be honest, BrainSurgeon2 works part-time at Hopkins and the rest at another Baltimore hospital. I tromped up there with MRI in hand last Monday. He took a history and did a quick neuro exam (very quick -- he's a neurosurgeon). Then he and I got down to brass tacks. He agreed with BrainSurgeon1 in that I need a spinal fusion (eeek!) as well as decompression of that freaking nerve root that is being compressed. He did not think that a dynamic stabilization device was a good idea (yay!), although he did have some other off-label device uses to suggest (NO!).
He then called up a NeuroDoc to see if he could fit me in soon. Turned out that NeuroDoc and I worked together a few years ago, so I got in 2 days later. Unfortunately, NeuroDoc zapped me with electric shocks and stuck needles in me, making me not like him quite as much as I once had. I swear that this is a test which is much better to perform on others than to have done on oneself. Conclusion: "If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and is near a pond, it is a duck." He had to stick needles in me to come to that conclusion?
Given my sensitivity to medications, drugs to treat neuropathic pain are not an option. I've failed the majority of other conservative treatments (all those NeedleDoc appointments were in vain). So surgery it is. And thankfully I have health insurance (I will not mosey on down that conversational road right now -- I think that I am about as liberal as Eric in that respect).
So having received a 2nd opinion that I like better than the 1st one, and having failed conservative therapy, AND having refused a bionic back, I will undergo a single-level lumbar spinal fusion next week. Now all I have to do is convince myself that I won't die under anesthesia, wake up paralyzed, be worse off than I was before the surgery, or wake up during the surgery.
I haven't met the anesthesiologist yet -- I will certainly have some suggestions for him or her... Why do I suspect that I will be a really annoying hospital patient?
And let's not even go into the insanity that will be me when I am stuck at home for a few weeks.