My Rhizotomy story.
As everyone knows, I put off this procedure out of fear for months. The description sounded very scary to me and I have already been through a lot or different treatments trying to fix my back pain, some helpful, some not as much.
So, back to the rhizotomy, 2 weeks before the actual procedure, I had what they called a “test injection”, they inject lidocaine in multiple locations, in my case on both sides of my spine, and for about 24 hours you see how you feel. If you get pain relief from that it makes you a candidate for rhizotomy because it shows them that the pain you have is coming from the nerves. I had some residual pain after the surgery as well as from a car accident last fall. So the test injection was not painful at all, it’s just little sticks when they inject the lidocaine and the lidocaine itself stings a bit going in but overall not a painful procedure, nothing to be afraid of. I was a bit sore that night but when I woke up the next morning, it was amazing, I had no pain, I spent a lovely pain-free day for the first time in a long time and then that evening, I could feel it wearing off. By 930pm the pain was back but at least I knew I was a rhizotomy candidate. I called the doctor’s office that afternoon to report my result to them.
The Rhizotomy was scheduled February 5, 2 weeks after the test, the doctor I work for was planning to be off that Thursday and Friday so it seemed like a good time to do it. I went in and went through the usual check in process, I got there early just in case they could get me back early. First, they inserted an IV through which they would put the Versed. Versed is a twilight sedation also used for colonoscopy, you are not asleep but you are relaxed and usually don’t remember much afterwards, although I do. I walked into the procedure room myself and my doctor asked if I had any questions. I did and he patiently answered everything I wanted to know which included how much pain to expect after and if I would need medication for that. He said you can expect increased pain from the procedure for a few days up to a week and yes he gave me an RX for medicine for that. Then they made me comfortable with a pillow under my chest while I lay on my stomach. I wore yoga pants and loose shirt, this is a good tip, always wear something stretchy and comfortable or they will make you change into a gown and no one wants that!!!! My back was exposed and draped. I could feel what he was doing and it was uncomfortable, but not really painful, he made 5 openings on each side of my spine through which he cauterised the nerve roots. The nerves coming out of the vertebrae are like the trunk of a tree and branch out from there so if the trunk is deadened, the branches can’t feel either. At one point I started to cry so he told his nurse to put more versed in my IV, I don’t remember much after that until it was over and they put me in a wheelchair to take me out to the car. Right before I left the room, I saw the x-ray picture on the screen and asked the tech if that was mine, he said it was and I asked him to print it which is how I got the picture above. Even under the influence of Versed I was thinking of my blog. Ha ha, now THAT is dedication. This is the last x-ray shot he took. He used the x-ray throughout the entire procedure to guide where he put the canulas that he used to thread the cautery wires through. The picture also clearly shows one of my titanium discs which is kinda cool as well as some canulas (the dark lines that look like needles on the left of the picture).
That night at home was rough, I was extremely uncomfortable and CVS took hours to fill my medication, apparently they are short-staffed. I iced it for 20 minutes at a time, this had to be an hour apart according to their instructions and I slept in my back brace, propped up on a very elaborate pillow formation, it was the only way I could be even mildly comfortable. In fact I am still wearing the brace at work during the day. I wore it at night for about 3 nights and the first 3 days after I wore it all day as well. It helped the pain by giving support so I can’t move in ways that would cause pain. This is day 6 and I already have far less pain going down my leg, so fingers crossed this worked he said I might not know the full benefit for 4 weeks so we shall see. According to my doctor we are hoping for 12 months of relief from this before the nerves regenerate. Unfortunately, that is the downside to this, it is not forever, the pain will come back to some degree when the nerves grow back and that differs by individual. I am glad I went forward with it and I am looking forward to being able to do more of what I want to do physically and especially to feel better living without all the pain.
Thanks for reading, and if anyone out there has had this done or is thinking about it, please feel free to comment. We can share our thoughts and ideas.