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Topic Title: Artificial Disc Presents New Alternative to Spinal Fusion
Created On: 01/02/2005 12:17 PM
 10/11/2005 03:17 AM

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It has been many months since my last post here. I believe it to be warranted to share my story since my revision surgery at Stenum hospital. For many of you, you know my story, for those who don't I will make it brief (laugh away those who know me).
In Dec 03 I suffered a major rupture fragmentation to my L4-L5 disc. I subsequently went through three (3) immediate hemi-laminectomy surgeries to remove the awful mess. This all occurred in a two week period.
After this my L4-L5 disc was completely removed, well the annulus was left. I continued down the path of hellious discovery of not having a functioning spine and of course pain. In April 04' I began investigating the world of ADR. This path led through the clinical trials and the world of Pro Disc, Charite and a number of other devices. After seeing three ADR surgeons and getting denied access by my insurance for the Charite trial. I like others using the internet researched the many posts on the subject. I also found Stenum hospital.
After exhausting all stateside avenues, I made the decision to go to Stenum. Some of you now may remember. In August of 04, after getting the approval from my surgeon to withstand another surgery and seeing the results from other Americans going to Stenum, I traveled to Germany with hopeful expectations. Upon arrival all was as explained and our accommodations and arrangements were wonderful. Meeting our group of other Americans undergoing the ADR surgery was informative and helpful to my wife and me.
So after a physical and prep work I was readied for the surgery. During this the decision was made for a two level. So I was to have the L3-L4 and the L4-L5 replaced. Made sense to me to get two while you’re in there. All though I never had a disco-gram only a physical exam by the Stenum doctor. On to the surgery, 2 hours later and in recovery I was feeling great. Really! No more leg pain and I was taking no morphine and amazingly felt better then the previous surgeries. Was I pumped and happy!
So it was with some reluctance to find I was hurting in the abdomen and swollen and my back locked up at times. Not knowing what this was and then getting the first x-ray and looking at it with some puzzlement why one plate was sinking into the vertebra? In asking I was told this is irrelevant. I said OK. But the stomach issue? Also common and no problem.
After flying home I was hospitalized with a large seroma and build up of fluids abdominally. However, after all I was home and ready to recover and a short hospital stay was like OK. However, new x-rays revealed the L3 plate had sunk further and this was now serious. I visited my doctors here and one of the chief Charite investigators. I now had major pain again in the back and daily lock ups. This was due to a major degree of subsidence from the plate shifting into the cancellous soft tissue of the vertebral body. “Wow, just fix doc” I said.
Well this meant another surgery which couldn’t be done in the USA. So after many calls to Stenum and Depuy Spine, Stenum re-looked at my new films and agreed it had to be revised. What a struggle.
In October 04 on the 10th month to the day of my first surgery I had surgery #5. A revision to explant the L3-L4 Charite and implant a larger size. Oh did I say that the reason was that too small of an implant was used. I forgot. But that is what I was told. A technical error. Happens. On to the surgery, well this one was longer like 4 to 5 hours and this time in recovery I was in PAIN. But I soon asked for the morphine to be stopped as I couldn’t feel my left leg, the leg that took all the original nerve damage from the ruptured L4-L5. Soon the nurse followed my request after getting doctors approval and then it happened. My left leg was ice cold.
In record time I was in an ambulance headed to the Red Cross for testing. This revealed a major closure of the left iliac artery, an occlusion. My companion was told this was over 6 cm long. My blood flow was reduced over 50% to this leg and the odds of me keeping the leg was maybe 25%. Much speculation was made as to how or when this happened. Anyway, long story shortened, after 2 agonizing weeks of pain and horrible thoughts and a failed angioplasty to open the blocked artery, I came home.
After which I spent two weeks in the hospital for pain management. Then home taking daily 240mg of morphine, 2100 mg of lidocaine patches and a litany of other drugs. I was wheel chair bound, when I could tolerate sitting and in bed-rest awaiting another angio or a bypass surgery. After three months I underwent the second angiogram which was again a failure. So then I was scheduled for bypass surgery yup, #6.
This would entail a risky abdominal approach through the mass of scar tissue, open my chest to get to the aorta and place a plastic graft from there to the femoral artery on the left side. If this failed I would have my left leg amputated. Or die from infection, lung collapse you know standard stuff after six surgeries. So was I frightened! Out of my mind. Why did this happen to me? Well God knows.
In mid May, 2005, I showed up at UCLA medical center for my pre surgery exam. In walks my surgeon, “Whoa, Mr. Beeson, what has happened? You look great!” I said yes. He asked again and then said if you look this good and your leg is good, then we can postpone surgery”. I said excellent, and then I told him what happened.
I was prayed for on Palm Sunday at a new church near my home. Some things happened. Then in early April, I was hospitalized with a near fatal bacterial infection. “Go on he said”. Then in late April I was in bed and had a vision and God told me I was healed and would be healthy and strong. When I awoke and got out of bed, I had no more pain anywhere and my leg felt OK and I stopped all meds with no withdrawals. He exclaimed “This is a miracle; so let’s examine you and find out what the leg is doing”.
So a new ABI test was conducted and my left leg went from .5 to .82. He said this is a miracle that an artery has either opened on its own or you have created new major collateral arteries. He said go enjoy and I’ll see you in 4 months. But there will be some pain in certain activities. I said no problem there doctor. It is incredible and a miracle. Is this for real?
Explain then stopping all those meds, with no withdrawals. According to every doctor I should have had a cardiac arrest. 240mg of morphine to zero not happened before they say. Am I crazy or blessed? I prayed for the latter. I pray that everyone who has reached the point I was of little or no hope is so healed. Why me? Only God knows. Why did I share such a personal experience? To shed light on the way, the awesome way I was healed. This wasn’t through medicine or doctors or surgeries. In fact I should right now be either one legged, dead or if I survived the sixth surgery and recovered to have normal blood flow, I would still be in terrible pain and on morphine or something.
Again, I haven’t been on this forum during all these months and I felt compelled to share this awesome story. I also wanted to inform all of you who read this that I am not a Stenum success (the new L3-L4 implant is improperly placed). I wish I was an ADR success, I know many who are; I also know those who are failures. I believe my story will help those searching for their own back pain relief to search carefully. To avoid by my story, all true, yet a fabulous ending through prayer and faith, making quick decisions based on marketing efforts of hospitals or manufacturers. You must make the right decision whether for Stenum or not or for ADR or not. I hope this will provide that bit of information that helps you make that right decision.
I sincerely pray for each of you for relief from the pain and lifestyle altering result of debilitating back pain. I also pray for those involved in this forum and the medical field for the continued success in performing this work. As many in these fields perform exceptionally well and we should remember them in our thanksgivings.

God bless you all,

Willie Beeson
 02/26/2005 05:01 PM

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I am strongly considering Stenum Hospital in Germany for 2 level surgery during april. This is the first negative review I've seen on their surgical team. Is this story common??
 02/15/2005 04:24 PM

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Hi willie, sorry to hear all the problems. I will pray for you, that it turns around and you get well. I am no longer considering Stenum due to the results of a myelogram. I have been diagnosed with adhesive arachnoiditis.Last week I had a full body EMG(no fun at all!) and it showed nerve dammage at C5&6 as well as L4&5. I am having pain alot and the myelogram did not help. I ended up with a dural leak, the subsequent spinal headache and went back in for a blood patch. The patch failed and hit a nerve clump as well. Talk about pain! The most God awful pain I have ever felt for several days. At this point I am loathe to allow any invasive action on anyones part. The spondylo is only grade1 and the DDD seems less likely to be the cause of the pain than the Arachnoiditis.There is no cure and the only treatment is palliative to control pain. I am looking into natural medicine as well. I have been on numerous meds"off label" for nerve pain without success. I am now on relaxers and pain meds, but am managing to not take too often...trying at least. Thank you all for the emails and posts here. My heart goes out to each of you, as I know first hand what intractable pain is like. God bless you each and ease your pain. May you find the right answers for you. Namaste, Vanessa
 02/15/2005 03:43 PM

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Hello Vanessa, I experienced a horrific injury to my L4/L5 disc in Dec 03'which caused a massive rupture which not only ruptured up the spinal canal 2 levels, and posteriorly hitting my L5 nerve root, it ruptured anteriorly hitting my left iliac artery causing damage. I did not have DDD nor do I have in any other discs. I have had five, yes 5 surgeries to date from this injury. Two hemilaminectomys to remove the ruptured fragments. A third to remove a blood clot that formed on my spinal cord. This all happened in a 2 week time period. After many months (7) I decided to have the Charite ADR implants. I chose to go to Stenum Hospital in Germany as you read from I ended up having a 2 level performed. I never had a disco gram performed or bone density testing why I don't know. I actually had one ADR doctor (Pro Disc) tell me it was absolute that the L3/L4 was bad too. Next doctor (Charite) said how did the other doc determine this without a disco gram? I said he looked at the MRI. This doctor laughed and said he would like to meet Superdoc who can determine that a blackened disc is a pain generator. This was FYI. So ultimately I went to Stenum and had the ADR yes a 2 level (they decided after a physical exam) done in August 04'. This ADR surgery went smooth and I actually walked 3 miles on the 3rd day in the hospital. However, in Germany I discovered the L3 ADR end plate was sinking while looking at the x-rays taken at Stenum prior to leaving. I discussed with the surgeon he said it is nothing to worry about. In six weeks it had sunk even farther. Also upon arriving home I was admitted to the hospital for a seroma. This is fluids trapped between the abdominal sheath and the peritoneum sac. In fact post surgery my abdomen was very swollen and in asking Stenum about this I was told it was common. NOT! After 950 ml was removed and undergoing extreme pain and 10 days in the hospital I finally came home. Around the six week time post op I had x-rays taken these were compared to the set in Germany. I took them to two ADR surgeons they replied I need a revision surgery to remove this sinking plate. I made contact to Stenum and sent them these films and they responded it was not clinically relevant. One of the symptoms of this subsidence is locking up the spine. On my last day at Stenum in front of the main surgeon this happened! Still not a problem. Eventually Stenum arranged for me to return for a revision surgery, which only happened after I sent my films to DePuy Spine the owner of the Charite SB III ADR device worldwide. On Oct 23rd, 04, I had my 5th major surgery. The surgeons removed the affected L3 on L4 Charite and installed a size larger (oh, did I mention they admitted to putting in too small of a size at my L3 L4?). This surgery was long (5 hours) and they did not detract the retractor on my iliac vessel. This caused the final blow to that artery and once I woke up and got off morphine my left foot and leg was ice cold and I had no pulse. A long story but true. Fast forward to today. I am waiting for this Friday as I will have another angiogram performed. The first one in Germany failed to open the artery. So here we go again, if the surgeon cannot open it, and fails to dissolve it using a clot dissolving chemical, then I must have another surgery to replace the occluded section. Yes a potential sixth surgery. Oh and did I mention there is a probability I may lose my left leg! Stenum sent me to the Red Cross hospital in Bremen; they tried many times during angiography to open with the balloon and stints and were unsuccessful. I also have an abscess in my lower left abdomen which is very severe. So far nothing conclusive from x-rays. Now I go to have a new CT done in a week and a colonoscopy. If it is scar tissue and is affecting my colon, a sixth surgery will have to be performed. Indeed, should the vascular surgeon fail to open the artery then as I said I will have to have a bypass put in. Which has a patency of 15 years. So all this mini book so you are really informed of a true story. Yes, many people have successful outcomes with ADR. I wasn't one of those. Oh, and to dismiss this as an anomaly, in my group in August 2004 at Stenum, four of us have had revision surgery out of ten in the group. One for his core popping out three weeks post op. Another for vertebrae moving due to misplacement of the ADR. So, don't let this misinformation that I am the only failure fool you. The biggest problem Stenum has is defusing the truth. If you asked them about failures what do they say? Have you checked It is a Stenum webpage in the USA that still shows zero revision surgery and no vascular injuries. If you are a nurse and understand this radical type of surgery you know it is imperative that a vascular surgeon is on hand or in the operating room. We asked and were told that the operating surgeon is, if so, then how could this have happened? They never removed the artery retractors. So I hope you make the right decision for you situation. Having back pain like you described is terrible as I now fully understand I wish the best to you, oh, if you want a very knowledgeable source on ADR go to this website My best to you, Willie Beeson [email protected] Ps. I am still a firm believer in the Charite ADR it isn't the fault of the device only the technique of the surgeon. I would do this again if I could.
 02/12/2005 12:14 PM

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I never post on these forums, but I read as much as I can about ADR. I don't want spine surgery, but I'm afraid that I must. I am sure that ADR is better than fusion, but I'm scared to move forward until I have no other options. I met Willie at Dr. Regan's luncheon last month. Since that time, I've been in contact with several other Stenum patients who have had serious complications and have already had, or must soon have revision surgery. I understand that all surgeons have failure patients, but there is one common thread through all of these patients I've spoken with. All of them are the result of poor placement. None of them are due to unforseen problems or other reasons that may cause random failures. One patient had placement too far forward that caused the core to dislocate. He had a fusion already. Another patient has one disc way off to one side and too far forward, while the other disc was way off to the other side and too far backwards. Predictably, the bone in the middle tilted, causing scoliosis and nerve pain. She has already had a revision surgery. Willie got the wrong size plates put in the wrong place. He has already had a revision surgery at Stenum and is now suffering severe complications from that procedure. Another patient has the big sideways misplacement and the tilted bone and scoliosis. She has not had another surgery yet, but will soon. I apologize for not answering emails and posting more. I am trying to remain functional. Working and trying to be a husband and father while in pain and taking lots of drugs is about all I can do. But, knowing that Willie is not an isolated case I had to say something. JoeD
 02/04/2005 09:31 AM

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Vanessa, My husband is 31 yrs old and we found out in March 2000 that he had DDD. We too have looked into going to Stenum Hospital for the surgery. We were fortunate to have meet a gentleman that lives only 45 minutes from our home who had the surgery back in October 2004. We meet with him only seven weeks after having the surgery and you cannot tell he ever had any back problems at all. Him and his wife only had wonderful things to say about the whole experience and are willing to talk to anyone who is considering this surgery. I also did more research after meeting with him and came across this negative review about Stenum. After discussing this with my husband, we are still planning on calling Stenum and setting up the surgery in the late Spring. Think about it, out of all the reviews I have read and probably yourself this is the only negative one I have come across. Everyone is different and not everyone is going to come away from the surgery with the same experience but the majority has had great results. My husband and I would leave today for Germany if we could so we could beginning a brand new chapter in our lives with him being pain free.
 01/16/2005 06:28 PM

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Hi, my name is Vanessa. I am a 34 year old nurse. I had fusion and hardware placement through 2 surgeries(both anterior and popsterior) in 1992 for sponylolithesis & DDD, also some trauma from a MVA.I have worked in geriatris the last few years and due to a lessening of nurses and a growth of patients, have done alot of lifting and various activities that were not optimal for my back. I had to permanantly resign last summer. I have what is called "Transitional Syndrome". Basically the stress from the fusion has caused other disc's to degenerate and some to even dissintigrate completely. I now have constant pain in mid back, low back and intermittent pain in neck. Radiating pain both legs, numbness and tingling, "shock" like episodes that feel like my spine is "sliding".Abd pain. Also the right hip is now 1" lower than the left and the right shoulder is markedly lower, causing some big issues with the arm etc, I guess it is scoliosing now. I have been doing physical therapy with no improvement, actualy it has gotten worse. I am now having trouble sitting up in a chair for more than 20-30 mins. Grocery shopping is out. the pain wakes me nightly and seems to be progressing at a horrifying rate. Basic household chores are unattainable. My surgeon, who was in the U.S trials for the Charite had wanted to wait for FDA approval etc. Well it was approved, but not for use in patients with prior fusions or in multiple level use. Great! Now what? More fusion, which will cause more degeneration, causing more fusion. And so on and so forth until I no longer move? I am 34! I want my life back! I have been checking into Stenum Hospital and had heard only glowing reports until I saw the post from willee. I need any information anyone may have on this hosp, the Dr's and any options I may have.I have tried Reike, herbal things, massage, meditation. I am open to almost anything that will give me hope, I refuse to believe I am wheelchair bound! However, I also do not want to be led blind into disaster, hence the call for information and research.Feel free to email me anytime. Please do!
 01/02/2005 12:17 PM

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In the news today:Artificial Disc Presents New Alternative to Spinal Fusioni read the article on the new artificial disc to be used in lieu of spinal fusion and wondered if it was approriate to use when there was accompanying spinal stenosis at the levels that needed to be fused. will it correct the back pain and the radicular pain as well? restore any lost function(with rehab of course) like decrease of dorsiflexion in foot or muscle atrophy? this is of great intrest to me as i have been dealing with this problem for many years/surgeries and fear of doing the fusion thing for fear of losing my job thanks to the fmla restrictions and need for wearing a brace and such. katie
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