Pro/Cons Of Back Surgery

Updated on July 19, 2011
M.A. asks from Detroit, MI
9 answers

My mom, who is already very thin and frail, has fractured her back twice in the last year. She was warned years ago to exercise and built up her strength (muscle) to avoid future issues. She did not listen, now she can barely do a thing, which in turn she wants me and my kids to do everything (she is able to do a lot-but chooses to whine and cry and not help herself-sounds like she is suffering from depression too.) When she fractured her back the first time they wanted to do surgery, but it was too late and warned to exercise and see a therapist as this will happen again. She was sent to therapy, which helped but she did not follow the therapist’s advice to exercise at home, take calcium supplements (she lactose intolerant,) etc. Now she wants to have the surgery done. The Doctor is using the procedure to "cement" the bone? Anyone had back surgery before? What are the pros/cons?

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So What Happened?

My mom decided to do the surgery. She did not even do any research as she said "something needs to be done." She did not look into other options. She thought she was taking the easy way out....not!

Surgery did not go as planned, bones were collapsed, some where already "healed," and Dr. could only semi fix the others. He said she will have to live with it. She is not HAPPY!!! I tried to warn her, nope, no one listens to me.

More Answers



answers from Houston on

I'm not sure by cementing the bone. Which vertabre are to be cemented? The higher up the spine the less flexibility she will have. I had a fusion last summer on the L5-S1 very bottom. I was very pleased with the results but I am assuming that I am siginifically younger than your mom and I listened to the doctors. The older the person is with back surgery the harder the recovery. I would have a very serious talk with the doctor.

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answers from Detroit on

My husband had kyphoplasty and it was a big help but when he asked about a second one, he was told it only helps within 6 mos of the fractures. After that, probably won't help. Is she take meds to strengthen her bones? My hubby has bone marrow cancer which caused his bones to deteriorate. Now he gets a monthly infusion to strengthen them plus calcium and exercise.
Can your mom get into a senior center where there are activities:? Can she get into a low-income senior apt. bldg? That's where we live. You don't say if she's a senior citizen or not.



answers from Detroit on

Hi M.. I'm sorry to hear about your Mom and all you are going through. I can truly sympathize with you - I am going through the same thing! It is so discouraging!!!! Is your Mom having kypoplasty (sp?) done? My Mom had that done last year. It has helped a lot. She suffered for 3 1/2 years, screaming out in agonizing pain. It was horrible. But since she had the procedure, she has been a little better as far as the back pain is concerned, but she sits in a chair or in her bed, literally, all day, every day. She has left her house 1 time since Christmas Eve and that was when I took her for a dr. appt. last month.

Like I said, as far as the procedure, she had it done at Henry Ford Wyandotte. The dr. was wonderful and it seems like it worked. I don't think there were any cons to having it done.

Best of luck to you and your Mom! Take care,



answers from Boston on

being lactose intolerant is no excuse for refusing to take calcium. Most people who are lactose intolerant can eat yogurt without a problem. Yogurt, sardines, blackstrap molasses, cooked greens like spinich, collard and turnip greens, sesame seeds are all good sources of calcium. But calcium is only one part of the equation. See if you mom will start using Celtic Sea Salt instead of regular, refined salt. It has a wealth of minerals and trace elements all of which are important for bone health. Drugs like FOsomax and Boniva do not create healthy bone in the long run, and they wreak havoc on the GI tract. Oddly enough they have been responsible for causing jaw fractures, and increased the risk of certain other types of bone fractures. If you're willing to read a bit more about it check out Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon. Skip ahead to the chapter about minerals and bone health. She is spot on!

Vertebroplasty (I assume that's what she's having done-cementing) can help with pain but she will still have to improve her diet and exercise/lifestyle component or she will continue to have fractures.


answers from Houston on

Ask the Dr what the risks are with and without the surgery, get a second opinion as well. If she has it, what is the therapy like. If she doesn't have it, what are her options for healing.... obviously, she is going to need therapy one way or the other. How old is she? If she continues to neglect her health, does she realize she may need to live in an assisted living center/ has anyone ever discussed that with her to kind of jolt her into being responsible?

She needs to make the choice and it's sounds like she needs some tough love to get control of her health.... which means no more of you and the kids doing every little thing for her.

It sounds tough, but it's the only thing that is going to work. My mom went through this too, (it was a different surgery, a cervical herniated disc). We finally talked her into getting the surgery and not even 3 months later she was finally on the mend.



answers from Charlotte on

I wouldn't do it, M.. If your mom was non-compliant with therapy and exercise the last time, she's not going to do it now.

Only she can make the choice, but without the follow-up, she won't get better.

:( So very sorry.


answers from Dallas on

I would think any surgeon worth a darn would make her exercise first.
Calcium should not cause lactose problems. Vitamin D is the main vitamin needed to build bone. See



answers from Naples on

My husband had L5 & S1 fused. He noticed immediate relief from the crushing pain that he had for months prior to the surgery. His surgeon went in through the front. He actually had 2 internist to open up and move everything, and then the neurologist for the spinal fusion. The only side effect that he had was that for DAYS afterwards...almost a week he couldn't go #2. it caused a great deal of discomfort, and was actually scheduled for a 2nd surgery to explore and see what the problem was...when finally the damn broke so to speak. Apparently your intestines don't care for being handled, coupled with the anesthesia they are slow to get going again. To make matters worse, the pain med they sent home with him causes constipation.....even knowing that and taking a laxative with every pain med dose didn't the point that. Week after the surgery he was throwing up 4 day old food!


answers from Hartford on

My middle daughter is lactose intolerant too, and there ARE calcium supplements that are lactose free. Your mother can also find calcium fortified foods that don't have milk in them, such as breads by Bimbo. Kraft and Cabot brands make many cheeses that state right on the nutrition information "O grams of lactose" so she can get some calcium that way.

I just recently read that CVS brand calcium supplements are soy, corn, gluten, dairy, wheat free so I'll be checking those out in the next few days for my daughter. Her nutritionist wants her to have 800 milligrams per day, which she can get from various sources like Silk soymilk and the other fortified items I mentioned. So we're supposed to supplement her with 500 mg if we can get her a lactose-free one.

I also read that Whole Foods has a good selection of vitamins (why I never thought to check there, I'll never know) and that they have a lactose-free calcium supplement too.

Personally, I would try to get her to take the supplements, continue with therapy, and ask the doctor about medications like Fosomax (maybe not that exact one, but other anti-osteoporosis meds, especially ones with a lower risk of causing blood clots). I've seen some of my friends' moms get back surgery and a woman who used to be a neighbor, and while it worked for two of them, my neighbor wishes she never had it done. Another friend had one done and she's good some days, but horrible others. I don't believe any of them are in your mother's age range or in as poor health. Back surgery at your mother's age would require very, very difficult recovery and it would be long and very painful. She needs to know the chances of success in general with this surgery, the statistics of this doctor performing this surgery and his rate of success... she needs a second and third opinion as well.

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