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Thread: Good surgeon?Good hospital?Afraid for my sister!

  1. #1

    Good surgeon?Good hospital?Afraid for my sister!

    My sister has been experiencing neck pain, arm numbness, balance problems and all of these symptoms have been increasing. She has been the route of chiropractor, physical therapy, drugs and more drugs to treat the symptoms. After requested MRI, she was referred to a neurosurgeon. She has bone spurs putting pressure at the C6-7 level. The recommendation is removal of these bone spurs with a donor or hip graft replacement with a metal plate, as she has tried all of the other non-invasive measures with no success and the condition only worsens. She has been told that she will only be in the hospital for one day so she doesn't believe it to be as serious a condition as I do. However, having lived with a C4 SCI for almost 10 years probably does give me a different perspective. She lives in an isolated area in northern California and although she is very confident in her physician, I believe that the risks are high enough that a second opinion is in order and that the procedure should be done at a university such as UCSF or UCD where the surgeries are commonplace for the surgical staff as well as the nursing staff. Opinions, please.
    Thank you.

    Karen M

  2. #2
    Senior Member mikek's Avatar
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    Karen your Right !!!

    Get the second and third opinion!!!

  3. #3

    good surgeon, good hospital

    Karen M - You are very astute and, from my experience at the NSCIA Resource Center, believe that you are advising your sister correctly. You have mentioned balance problems which is not necessarily consistent with pressure at C6/7. Has she had any brain scan or MRI to rule out any other neurological problem? Has she had a neurological consult? Has anyone suggested cervical traction (that can be done at home with an inexpensive over-the-door traction) as a conservative measure?

    When one considers surgery on the back/spine or cord, a very delicate structure is being entered. It is extremely important that the surgeon have extensive experience and success record in this type of surgery. As the patient/consumer, a person has the right to inquire about a doctor's experience and numbers of surgeries, etc.

    There are several possible choices:
    1) Call the University of California Medical Center at San Francisco or Davis or Stanford University Medical Center; ask to speak to the Department of Neurology and inquire about procedure for a neuro consult.
    2) Contact the North American Spine Society at www.spine.org or 1-847-698-1630 for a physician referral in your region or in the Bay area.
    3) Contact the American Association of Neurological Surgeons at 1-847-378-0540 for a physician referral in your region or in the Bay area.

    The following are good websites for gathering more information:
    1) National Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Information Clearinghouse at www.nih.gov/niams or call 1-877-226-4267 Look for publication that can be ordered free: AR-147-IP Neck and Cervical Spine Disorders
    2) National Institutes of Neurological Diseases and Strokes: www.ninds.nih.gov
    3) www.spine-surgery.com
    4) www.spine-health.com
    5) www.americanbacksoc.org Has good links. CRF

  4. #4
    Super Moderator Sue Pendleton's Avatar
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    You got it right Karen! I'd be asking how many the surgeon has done, success over a 5 year period (the problem doesn't return), complication rate and how many the hospital handles each year. This is not something the local county hospital should be doing IMHO (unless you live in SF).

    Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, "I will try again tomorrow."

  5. #5
    Echoed, get a second and third opinion.

    Fyi, I met an sci sufferer recently who acquired his sci by sneezing. His neck, as he claims, was 'loose' from having extensive chiropractic work done and he believes that this may have been the cause of his sci.

    I'm not against chiropractors but...

    And a gal I met when I was injured who was a para became that way by an accidental surgeon's knife slip. She was in her early 50's and a phys. ed teacher. Sued the pants off of the doc and hospital and won a huge settlement. She'd trade the settlement for walking any day.

    Personally, imo, if she can avoid the surgery I would. I'd pursue physical therapy until the cows came home before undergoing a surgery.

    Hope she recovers.

    Onward and Upward!

  6. #6
    A friend of mine, a male in his early 50s, had similar surgery a few weeks ago. Here's an edited version of the e-mail I received a few days after surgery.

    ***
    Surgery started on Thursday at noon. They expected it to take about 4 hours. However, once they started, they found that the bone growth around the spinal cord was more complex than they originally thought. After 9 hours, they removed the necessary bone material and installed 2 - six inch rods down each side of his neck for support.

    When he woke up on Friday morning, he had no movement in his right arm. After many tests, the doctors believed it was caused by swelling around the area and started him on steroids. By Saturday morning, he was able to initiate movement in his left arm. He was also able to sit in a chair. By late Saturday afternoon, he walked down the hallway with assistance. On Sunday afternoon, he was wearing a custom-fitted neck brace and doing arm exercises. Right now, he has more movement in his hand than before the surgery, but less control and strength in his hand or arm in general. He said that the doctor told him that his strength will return in 5 months or so.
    ***

    I heard that the surgery took so long because he has a thick neck. They planned to use a plate, but used the rods because they had to remove more bone than they anticipated.

    I hope this information helps. Talking to others who have experienced the surgery should help.

    By the way, SCI-Nurse mentioned that balance problems are not symptoms of this type of problem. My friend never complained about balance problems before the surgery.

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