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 What Doctors Don't Tell You: Spinal anaesthesia 
What Doctors Don't Tell You © (Volume 12, Issue 10)
Q Just under two years ago, I underwent arthroscopy in one of my knees. As the pain and immobility was a great problem for me, we decided to employ a private consultant to do the operation as soon as possible. He offered me a choice of full anaesthesia or one from the waist down. I decided on the latter.

As soon as I recovered from the operation, I began to experience severe back pain, exactly where the anaesthesia injection needle had entered my body. After some weeks, X-rays showed signs of arthritis which, my doctor maintained, was the cause of the pain.

He prescribed medication. When the operated knee started giving me trouble again, I was seen by the surgeon who had done the arthroscopy. I asked him about my back pain and its possible cause. He utterly denied that the pain could result from the spinal injection.

I am now being treated by an osteopath, who has not succeeded in easing the pain. She agrees that these spinal injections can have severe after-effects and, indeed, has observed them in several women who had this type of local anaesthesia during childbirth. Nevertheless, she says, no doctor will admit to them because of the possibility of litigation.

How right she is. I’ve asked four doctors, one a consultant anaesthetist, whether spinal anaesthetics can cause back pain, and the answer has always been ‘no way’.

This is another hard-to-prove area in the medical world, but I think it would be helpful if research could be carried out and published so that the public is warned.- BF, Brecon

A Doctors usually remind us of the proverbial three monkeys - see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Oftentimes, they play dumb about one of the most common and well-known side-effects of drugs and medical procedures. Copious research has been both performed and published about persistent backache after the use of spinal anaesthesia, yet doctors continue to ignore it because they want to believe this clever means of operating on awake patients is safe and effective.

Arthroscopy and arthroscopic surgery is one of the most popular of the so-called ‘minimally invasive’ procedures. More than a million and a half of these are performed every year in the US, usually on the knee and shoulder. So successful is the procedure that surgeons now use it to repair all sorts of other joints, including the ankle, wrist, hip and even the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) in front of the ear.

On the face of it, arthroscopy is a miracle development in keyhole procedures and a big advance over ordinary ‘open’ surgery.

Developed by the Japanese, arthroscopy is a means of peering into a joint through a series of ingenious lenses. The technique employs fibreoptic cables, which project light into the joint. The resulting image is then projected onto a television screen.

The surgeon makes an incision about the joint, injects sterile fluid into the joint space to make all the various bones and tissues easier to see, then makes another incision for insertion of the tiny arthroscope. He can view the joint either through a lens or on the TV screen.

In the case of knees, while he’s in there, the surgeon can take a biopsy or perform minor surgery, such as mending damaged tissues or removing any floating pieces of cartilage or bone. The entire procedure can be wrapped up in an hour.

As with any surgery, however, this is not an exact science, as your own experience shows. Even ‘simple’ surgery isn’t always successful.

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What Doctors Don't Tell You What Doctors Don’t Tell You is one of the few publications in the world that can justifiably claim to solve people's health problems - and even save lives. Our monthly newsletter gives you the facts you won't......more
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