It's not about pessimism, but about being ready for the worst. There's a slight chance that my stem cell treatment won't regenerate my spinal disc and retract the herniation. I'm hoping it will though! It would come to show that stem cells are the next step in medicine. I still have another month and a half to see if it worked or not, but, in case it doesn't, i'm already preparing my next step: SURGERY.
The rule of thumb with doctors is that you have to try 6 months of conservative treatments/therapy before they consider you for surgery. Even after that, you have to decide between the different levels of invasiveness/effectiveness/recovery differences that all the options have. In my case, I'm going with the least invasive first, and if that doesn't work, with a more invasive procedure last. Here's a rundown of my treatment plan in chronological order:
1. Micro-Endoscopic Discectomy or Hydro-Endoscopic Discectomy: a minimally invasive procedure, outpatient, with a high success rate, but an equally high re-herniation rate. You're out of the hospital in an hour with only a band-aid, but the annulus (the outer wall of the disc) is damaged and weaken the disc, this leading to a re-herniation. It also does nothing to treat the degenerative aspect of the disc. Animation!
2. Another surgery like #1 in case of a re-herniation.
3. Artificial Disc Replacement: there are a few FDA approved devices in the US, but these are old compared to the devices that are being used and tested in Europe. I'm have my eyes on the Freedom Lumbar Disc by Axiomed. I would probably have this surgery performed in Europe, given that newer devices haven't finishes testing in the US. Animation and Video!
4. Fusion. They fuse your two vertebrae together to form one rigid structure. I want to avoid this at all costs! It's brutal!
Anyways, I'm hoping that the stem cell treatment will at least work to regenerate the disc and allow it to hold water again (this is why it shows black in an MRI, because it's no longer holding water). With this, I can at least assume that the disc is strengthened a little bit and that a micro-endoscopic discectomy will have a better probability of being successful.
Given this, I must add a new ingredient to the plan: PATIENCE. It's key to making the right decisions. A week ago, I was tempted to get surgery given a little flare-up in my sciatica pain. A few days later, it was gone and I'm optimistic again. This might not be the case with other people, but still, finding the right doctor and treatment is key.