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Back Pain - Multiple Bulging Discs - Surgery


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#1 OldDave

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 12:44 PM

Ive been in the VA Health System less than a year. About 4 weeks ago, I went to my pvt doctor complaining of back pain (I still have pvt insurance). He sent me for X-rays and an MRI and gave me a muscle relaxer and some pain meds. The MRI results say I have multiple bulging discs in the lower spin. Pvt doc wants to refer me to a neurosurgeon. I have my deductible met but my 20% would still be about $3000. Im not sure I want surgery in any event. Im feeling a lot better than I was 4 weeks ago. I know that if I do nothing, Ill end up in pain and flat on my back again. And, I probably wont be able to afford the pvt insurance next year.



Should I take my X-rays and MRI results to the VA clinic and try for a referral to neurology or orthopedics? I didnt go there first because I was in pain and not moving around very well. I figured a referral would probably take a few weeks at a minimum.



Any advice would be appreciated

Thanks,

OldDave.


#2 10thFO

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 01:08 PM

Old Dave, is this a service connected injury? The reason why I ask is this past Feb. I went to see my Primary Care doc, before she left for good, and asked her to put in a consult to go to a different VA to see the neurosurgeon for my back. Same deal, leg pain and numbness, all service connected though. At that time she told me that she couldn't even refer me since the nearest VA was backlogged with patients just waiting for an appointment for an evaluation. I was approved for fee basis outside the VA. One of my happiest dealigns with the VA, since I didn't want them to operate on me, for the simple reason that the Richmond, Virginia, VA is a training hospital, and from month to month you'll never see the same doc when it comes to backs.

Is this something that just came on you, or have you battled it for years? I've battled mine for years, and finally found an alternative type of surgery, something the VA wouldn't have offered, that gives me more hope. I've been on painkillers for the last 7 years, Vicodin no less, and will have liver issues soon enough I'm sure.

Bottom line is, if it's at a point that you can't stand it, do something about it, but you said it was subsiding so not as bad. In the end it's about quality of life. Mine has been so bad for the last year, that I can't put it off anymore, even at the age of 40. Good luck.

#3 OldDave

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 01:53 PM

10thFO, thanks for your response.

I'm not service connected for my back. I'm at 80% though, so the VA should cover the treatment. My first visit to my VA PCP was last Feb. and it just so happened I was having back trouble at the time. He prescribed muscle relaxers and pain pills and I recovered nicely in a week or two. That was the first time in recent years that I've had trouble. I'm 64 so all in all I guess I shouldn't complain. If the worse it gets is two episodes within 8 months I can deal with that. The problem is, if I should have the surgery, the private option probably won't be there next year. Although, after October 2010, I'll be eligble for Medicare. But, between January and October, the VA will probably be my primary care provider.

Have you had the surgery already or are you working on it? I hope it gives you relief and good results. Good Luck.

#4 10thFO

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 02:46 PM

Dave, if you will be eligible for Medicare that soon, then I say wait. Use the VA for it's drugs or whatever for now. You should be good until then. I'm having surgery this friday, and it's acutally a surgery that the VA or Medicare will only pay for, more progressive. Private insurance companies won't pay for this yet as it costs more than other more risky to you alternatives. Good luck brother.

#5 allan

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 03:22 PM

When I was at the VAMC neurological ward for diagnosic workup, a veteran in the bed next to me was in for neck surgery.
After the surgery they told him they would have to put him under again & finish the operation on the other side because they ran out of time on the operating table. They are only alowed so much time for the students to work on you I guess.

#6 OldDave

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 05:29 PM

10thFO, keep us posted on the surgery. Hope it goes well for you.

Allan, did that surprise you? You were only in for evaluation. If you were in for a procedure, would you have gotten a little worried? My dad used to say the best hospitals were teaching hospitals. Fresh inquesative minds with experienced teacher supervisors. Of course, dad was never in a VA hospital.

#7 jbasser

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 05:50 PM

The training VA hospitals are mostly associated with a Main Hospital and the Docs work both places.
Ours has one heck of a Medical school.
Check into it. Dont worry about the training aspect of it.You will receive better care.

J

#8 Pete53

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 06:46 PM

If it was me I would pay the 20% copay. Since you have 80% Insurance I am sure that they will work out payment plan if you need it.

I am sorry John I do not want someone learning on me and doing delegate surgery. I have also found that they will experiment on you without telling you. My VA is associated with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and I am sure that their people are top notch but if you have never cut or sewed or worked on anything but cadavers I don't want you cutting on me.

The guy who did my stent had problems and he had done it 19000 times. When something goes wrong I want the guy who has done it thousands of times over someone who has never done it.

#9 blackbird

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Posted 05 October 2009 - 07:06 PM

Hey OldDave,

I know how it feels to have back pain and I sympathize with you. When to have back surgery is the million dollar question. Some people say they would never have back surgery, all I can say is they just haven't hurt bad enough. If I could have, I would have tried to do my own, it hurt that bad. Some people that have had back surgery are disappointed because they're expectations are too high. They expect the surgery to give them a "new" back and that can't happen. All a surgeon can do is to try to get the pressure off the nerve that's causing the pain and if necessary stabilize the joint.
I've had 9 spine surgeries to date and probably more in the future due to my condition,(severe DDD). Each time I prayed and expected the pain to go away, and so far each time it did, but you will always know you've had back surgery! Remember, the surgeon cannot install or make your back like new. If you have a 60 year old back when you have surgery, it will still be 60 years old after the operation, but hopefully the surgeon has been able to reduce the pain.
It sound like to me that you will eventually need to have something down, but since there has been some improvement, this indicates to me that you may not be quite ready yet, but that's up to you and your doctor. And if there is the slightest chance you may need surgery, make sure you have done some investigating and pick the best neurosurgeon you can find. It's risky surgery so make sure you get the odds in your favor by getting the best "cutter" you can find. Make sure you can talk to him or her and they take the time to listen to you. (This will matter when you are laying in a hospital bed after surgery).
Sorry this is long, but as you can tell, I have been through it before. Hope this info some how helps you. I'll be praying for ya.

Blackbird

#10 Tony

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 11:10 AM

I had my cervical sergery done at the Madison WI VA hospital. They did a great job. After my initial neurosurgery evailuation, I had surgery two weeks later. It's all according to the VA hospital. I was recently seen by the neurosurgery department at the Birmingham Alabama VA hospital. I would NEVER have surgery there. The quality of care was completely different. Even though I live in southern Alabaman now, I will drive back to the Madison VA hospital for my neurosurgery appointments.

#11 Tony

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 11:13 AM

Surgery was laminoplasy and laminectomy spinal fusion of the C2-C7.

Good luck!
Tony

I had my cervical surgery done at the Madison WI VA hospital. They did a great job. After my initial neurosurgery evaluation, I had surgery two weeks later. It's all according to the VA hospital. I was recently seen by the neurosurgery department at the Birmingham Alabama VA hospital. I would NEVER have surgery there. The quality of care was completely different. Even though I live in southern Alabaman now, I will drive back to the Madison VA hospital for my neurosurgery appointments.



#12 john999

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 11:26 AM

Half the people in the USA have bulging discs with no symptoms. Wait before you have surgery and for heaven's sake don't let the VA do it. There is no certainty that your pain will go away after surgery. It might get worse. There is a condition known as "failed back surgery syndrome".

#13 OldDave

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Posted 08 October 2009 - 03:33 PM

Thanks to all of you for your feed back. I'm not in pain any more so I think I'm going to see if it will resolve on it's own. At least for now. I don't have a problem with teaching hospitals. I had a heart attack over 11 yrs ago and was treated in the Louisiana charity hospital system(I didn't have insurance). Including the placement of a steent. The hospital was training doctors for the LSU and Tulane medical schools. My steent is still working and not another heart attack (Knock on Wood).

Dave