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What are the Pros and Cons of Surgery for Fibromyalgia?

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  • Written By: L. Burgoon
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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Surgery is one treatment option for people suffering from fibromyalgia, but the operation has pros and cons. Reasons against surgery include the risk of complications and the chance that surgery for fibromyalgia will not relieve its symptoms. Some patients are willing to take the chance that they will have a positive outcome to the surgery, which may include stopping or severely lessening pain or mental anguish associated with fibromyalgia. Patients should consider the benefits and drawbacks to surgery for fibromyalgia before making any final decision.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes extreme fatigue and pain in muscles, ligaments, and tendons lasting more than three months. It is typically considered a syndrome, rather than a disease, because the symptoms may not be linked to a specific cause. Fibromyalgia symptoms may develop spontaneously, while others link the onset of symptoms to a specific event, such as an illness or accident. Many patients are misdiagnosed with other ailments, and the diagnosis remains controversial among some medical professionals.

Surgical Options

There are several types of surgery for fibromyalgia, including decompression surgery and quadrant pain intervention. The first involves an operation at the base of the brain or cervical spine to address difficulty sleeping, headaches, impaired vision, and pain. Complications during this surgery could lead to impaired brain function, reduced mobility, or death in extreme circumstances.

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Quadrant pain intervention is a different type of surgery that focuses on the acupressure points that correspond to the the affected quadrant of the body where the pain is felt. A relatively small incision is made in one or both forearms or inner ankles, depending on the part of the body in which pain is experienced. During surgery, the acupressure points are "unblocked," and any scar tissue that might be restricting the nerves is removed. There are risks to this type of surgery as well, including the chance of infection.

Risks of Surgery

Surgery is not a guaranteed cure for fibromyalgia. Many experts recommend against decompression surgery for fibromyalgia alone, as it can have serious complications. Quadrant pain intervention is less risky, but as with most surgeries, is not completely successful for all patients.

In addition, surgery can be extremely expensive — especially decompression surgery, which may cost tens of thousands of US Dollars. These surgeries are also rarely covered by insurance. Neither type of surgery is very widely available, so finding a physician who will perform surgery for fibromyalgia may be a challenge.

Benefits of Surgery

Some fibromyalgia patients are willing to take on the risks because even if the surgery is not guaranteed, a significant possible benefit of an operation is the lessening or erasing the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia. A patient may be willing to tolerate trouble sleeping if joint pain is eased by surgery, for example. Living with this condition can be exhausting for patients, and in these cases, surgery for fibromyalgia may have both physical and mental benefits. For patients who have tried other therapies without success, the risks may be outweighed by these potential benefits.

Other Treatment Options

Surgery for fibromyalgia usually is a last resort. Most physicians will attempt other treatments, including drugs or therapy, first to see if the pain can be controlled. Drugs used typically include pain medications, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and medication for depression. Fibromyalgia sufferers also may be prescribed physical or mental therapy, or both. When none of these options prove effective, surgery for fibromyalgia is then considered.

Before considering surgery, fibromyalgia sufferers may want to try other courses of action. Acupuncture, homeopathic medications, yoga, or exercise may relieve physical or mental symptoms of the syndrome. Other patients find relief in massages, limiting caffeine intake, or receiving chiropractic care.

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anon326508
Post 1

I have had fibro for at least 20 years. I recently had a full knee replacement operation and the pain I went through was horrendous. I'd never felt pain like it before. I have had surgery in the past: a cesarean section and a hysterectomy before I had fibro. I would never have surgery again, only in a life threatening situation.

People with fibro should be warned about the intense pain after surgery. Even the morphine did not give good pain relief. I felt like I had gone to hell and back never again.

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