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Wife looking at 360 spinal fusion...opinions

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,731
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:24 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
My wife has been having miscellaneous health problems since July. It started with stomach flu, then kidney stones then on Labor Day weekend we were floating down the river with my family. We went to down a tube shute and my wife had the cooler. She ended up leaning forward to catch it and afterwards he back started to hurt really bad. The doctors have said she has 2 perforated discs at L3/L4 and L4/L5. They tried the epidural shot which gave some relief for a few days but then the pain returned. Then we did a Facet shot which helped the arthritis in her lower back (she also has degenerative disc disease) but has added more pain in the perforated discs and also caused there to be some referred pain in her groin, hip and down left leg. We are looking at potential options as she is tired of having to spend any free time during the day in bed trying to rest. We have a 1 yr old and most doctors suggestions are to not pick him up, which obviously is not an option. She's a stay at home mom and ends up going to be at 6:30 at night due to the pain. Doctors have said several different things.

1) 360 spinal fusion
2) Physical Therapy
3) Plasma Disc Decompression

The physical therapy we are going to try, but we have a strong feeling it won't work too well since most movements are causing her pain at this point and time. The plasma disc decompression was recently mentioned, but because the disc is perforated I can't see how this method would actual fix anything as it seems to be made for enlarged discs pressing on the nerves to remove some of the fluid and reduce the disc size. My wife is pressing really hard for the 360 spinal fusion so she c an be up and about for Christmas as we are having everyone at our house this year. She is 30 years old and knows she will have to quit smoking. She is overweight, but part is due to the baby and she rolled her ankle after he was born and then we moved and now this so her weight loss hasn't been what we expected. She's almost to her pre pregancy weight though. It hasn't been a real long time she's been in pain, but shes taking Methidone as pain meds because it is the only thing that is working for her right now. It's not something we want her to become addicted to so we don't want to have to prolong the surgery if it is not necessary. I would love any input that could be provided as to experience or expertise in the area as to the best course of action. We have gotten 3 Dr's opinions and they are all slightly different so we are left with what we think the best solution is. My wife is ready for the 360 fusion to have it be done. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.


  • Back surgery, any kind at all, is MAJOR. You don't have surgery and then be back to normal in a couple of weeks. It is a LONG haul to healing!

    Has your wife tried heating/ice packs for the pain? As far as lifting the child...after surgery she will not be able to lift him AT ALL for a while, NO bending, lifting, or twisting. It's been 4 months since my TLIF and I'm allowed to lift only about 20 lbs. For the first 4 months, I was not allowed to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk!

    I'm just saying...research carefully and be realistic when it comes to the recovery period. Exhaust all other options before contemplating any back surgery.
  • Well, we've had several doctors mention this to us and they say she will spend about 2 weeks where she won't leave the house. Then over the next 4 weeks she should be walking 1-2 miles a day to get her back into things again. From the sounds of it she should have the pain down to aches instead of piercing pain and she will have her mobility back. We know back surgery is major and that is why we have had several opinions. They have done all sorts of CT scans, MRI's and even done a discography to confirm the perforated discs. Shes been icing and heating for a while and it brings only temporary relief. Her mom is going to stay with us for those two weeks while she heals. So we will have some help there. She just constantly in a lot of pain and she has trouble going to our kids soccer game and can't even walk him to school anymore (maybe 1 mile away). We are prepared for recovery period, she is setting up her psych evaluation before the surgery just to go through the process. It's causing her a lot of stress on many levels and shes ready to be better. Even being able to function semi normally would be an improvement for her.
  • I wish her well! It's good that she has you and her mom for support.
  • Yes, she has been helpful. Lucky her family (most who live fairly close) have helped out a lot over the past few months and we really don't know what we would have done without them. We are ready to not have to rely so heavily on them. I just hope if we do this that things work out well, the doctor tells us she has a good chance at relief so we will see.
  • I had a 360 fusion a year and a half ago. It is MAJOR surgery, as has been stated in previous posts. I was in the hospital 5 days. I could not even sit up the 2nd day and walking even with a walker on the 3rd day was incredibly difficult. I am (or was) an elite athlete and considered myself to be in quite good condition. I had very good core strength going into the surgery. Your internal organs are moved with the incision on the front. You may experience ilias where your bowels seize up. You are cut front and back so it is difficult to lie in a comfortable position. Stomach muscles don't seem to work. It is a long recovery. You won't even be able to put your socks on (they are overrated anyhow!!) The first couple of walks around the block when I got home were more shuffles. I had a pedometer to see how far I walked and it would not even register!! But it does get better, you just have to be patient. Do the exercises the PT gives you. It takes a long time to recover but my surgery was successful. Good luck.


    14 surgeries including L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1-L5 fusion, many cortisone injections, 3 rhyzotomys.
    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • The surgeons don't always give you a realistic timeframe for healing. Mine told me that I'd be doing all my normal stuff again at 2 weeks...wrong! After I started reading the posts at Spine-Health, I found out that I was not alone. I'm not trying to be a wet blanket, but your wife will not be "ok" after a couple of weeks.
  • I hardly think your wife will be able to do the christmas thing this year, surgery or not. You should be making other plans unless you have a chef. Has your wife tried aquatherapy or had any physio? I sat on the floor last christmas and this christmas i told others not even to come looking for me. It's a very painful lonely back and leg pain thing that requires much rest. It should be held at someone else's place. Even if she considered surgery now she won't be ready to have dinner at her place. Rally your family together. Best wishes for your wife. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • Realistically then what should we expect for a recovery time frame. About when would she be able to walk around and get out of the house walking. How long before things seem to get back to normal?
  • Take a look at the recovery posts. You will find a wide variety of situations and stages of recovery. No two will be the same. Some people perk back up in a few weeks, but others take months to start feeling better. She may be pushing it alittle for feeling good at Christmas. She may not be a real happy camper for all of that company,lol. Good thing is that it sounds like you have the help covered, alot of people arent that lucky.

    I had a one level fusion 8/21 and still have my no BTL restrictions. My doctor still recommends only sitting for 20 minute periods a few times throughout the day, while the other time is spent laying flat or walking. I have no signs of fusion yet. Mine was done for herniations, DJD and DDD. It took almost 8 years of PT, chiro, PM , long acting narcitics and constant pain to get to the point that I was in the position to do the surgery.

    Walking is OK, but almost everything else is out of the question for me yet. Very little housework too! I am able to lift my grandson barely, he is 9 pounds, but I cant lean over to change him or to put him in the bassinet.

    I think getting as much help as you can (realistically for up to the first 4 weeks or more) is the best bet if your wife procedes with surgery either before or after Christmas.

    Goos Luck,
  • }:) Everyone is different and will recover differently. It is invasive surgery and takes a long time to recover from. I was told 12-18 months. Get a long handled shoe horn for putting on shoes (the one with the spring is the best I think). Get a "reacher" (can't think of the proper term right now). Move everyday items to easy reach levels as she won't be bending. Have a hand rail installed on the bathtub if you don't have a separate shower. Sounds like she will have help but as I said before its tough putting on your underwear much less socks. Be sure she has elastic waist pants because of the incisions front and back. She will learn to log roll to get out of bed. All the everyday things you take for granted can't be done. But you do recover and the pain goes away. Its a long process. No bending, no lifting, no twisting. You just have to be patient. Walking is great and once the doc says its ok to get in the water aqua therapy can be very good. Its great to be weightless. I found swimming to be very helpful but I was a swimmer before the surgery so be sure to check with your doctor or PT.
    L4/L5 laminectomy, L4/L5 360 fusion with instrumentation, L1 to L5 fusion, L5/S1 fusion w/ disc replacement, left and right SI joints fused.
  • Sorry, but isn't a perforated disc another name for ruptured or herniated disc? If so, a lot of the herniations reabsorb is given enough time. I would definitely vote for the PT...give it a good chance.
  • SQ Chevy, spinal fusion is major surgery. My neurosurgeon says it is the most painful op he does. It really should be a last resort when all other conservative options have been exhausted. If she is at this point, then surgery is the next step. Now these surgeons are often not very realistic with recovery times. My surgeon told me 6-12 weeks. Well I wasn't even out of my brace until 10 weeks. I am now 13 weeks out from one level PLIF and I can do most things, with caution. I am going to return to work as an RN at 15 weeks post-op.

    Everyone is different as far as recovery goes. You can read through these posts and get an ideal on some typical time frames, but of course there is no guarantee that it will be the same for your wife. Post-op it is absolutely essential that she follow all her restrictions. She won't be able to lift your child for probably months. And I don't think the Christmas thing is very realistic, unless others assume all responsibility for putting it on. My recovery is actually been a lot faster than many I have met here, probably due to only having one level and my surgeon is quite proactive. Many here are off work for 6-9 months even.

    Having surgery is a very personal decision. I would recommend that you research it thoroughly. Write down all your questions to take to the surgeon. Check out the articles here on SH and also www.Spineuniverse.com and www.Chirogeek.com are very informative. My surgeon gave me an 80% chance of successful surgery. So far I am happy I went through with it. I do not have fusion yet on my xrays, but it is early out. I get one next at 16 weeks to check again, so we will see. Good-luck to you two on this very important decision. >:D< Cali-Sue
  • I am having a 360 fusion L4/L5 on Monday. Titanium disc replacement from the front and hardwear in the back. I plan to be home the next day with my husband at my side for at least one week. I would not want Christmas at my house weeks after surgery especially if I couldn't help. If she must have Christmas at the house, maybe she could have a series of injections until after the holidays. If you wait ask your doctor if she might do more damage by waiting. This is a great site look around and take your time deciding, you cannot go back from surgery. I am ready to take that step but it's been a long road. Best Wishes
  • I must say that I do agree with Joy (absolutely, positively)...weigh the decision carefully, because (she is right) neurosurgeons do typically understate the recovery period (I cannot say why, but this seems to be a universal truth!!!)...my doc told me that - after 3-level fusion - I'd be back to work in 6 weeks....wrong! I went back part-time in 2 months, and full-time in 10 weeks (even THAT was aggressive, let me tell you - perhaps too aggressive on my part). Be thoughtful and reflect carefully - and long - on other alternatives before pursuing a fusion. It is correctly stated above that fusion is invasive and it is very painful.

    Best wishes for a fast recovery!


  • so glad your here to support your wife and find out as much info as you can that is the bomb!!! O:)

    yeah if she does decide on surgery for november or even the beginning of dec. there is no way she will be ready to have a house load of people at your house, unless your like my hubby and does all the cooking and cleaning :$ :$ ;)

    just even with a PLIF posterior lumbar interbody fusion i was so so at xmas no where near perfect but able to get out for the day. sitting is a tuff one and my surgery was at the beginning of sept 07.
    i just had it re done this sept i am 6wks out and still feel pretty crappy.
    my kids are a bit older and can get themselves out, but i usually sleep in because im up half the night due to being uncomfortable.

    i mean like all have said everyone is different in their recovery. and i certainly don't blame her for choosing that route. being in pain raising a child and house is horrid.

    no she won't have sharp pain like the drs said (mabye) its so very hard to predict. its a whole different type of pain.

    go with your instincts, the dr you trust the most. that is high on the list.
    walking is huge but remember when they say walk sometimes we only make it next door and back.
    going to a mall is like impossible for some of us.
    drs dont' explain all the sleepless nights, being uncomfortable, the no bending twisting and lifting for a very long time. the odd and end pains while recovering.

    do to different health reasons all my shopping will be done on line which im not looking forward to, but moms are doing the dinners this year. no mess here!!! :D

    both of ya hang in there, you have already done some of your homework.
    keep your ducks in a row and go from there.

    take care
    terri O:)
  • Hi! I am 38 yrs old and had a 2 level 360 Fusion on Oct. 6th. Please feel free to send me a private message with any questions and i'll help you any way i can.
  • I must echo what others have said here - the recovery for this surgery is long and slow. For example, my surgeon said I would be able to travel by plane at 6 weeks post surgery. Not so - I could not even sit for 20 minutes at 6 weeks. For the first couple of months about all I could do was lie on the sofa and walk. Sitting, even to eat, was very uncomfortable. My husband did pretty much everything - groceries, cooking, laundry, house-cleaning, etc. etc. And although I am not young I was in relatively good shape from Pilates, yoga, etc. going into surgery. My GP told me it is a longer, more difficult recovery than open heart surgery. Some days you feel not too bad and then the next day you feel like you took two steps backwards. A friend told me to look at recovery not based on how much more I could do from day-to-day but from one month to the next. She was so right!

    The first 2 weeks after surgery are hard for most people and you may want to consider help at home since you have a little one. Most people don't feel like doing anything. I even needed help with showering.

    No one here is trying to be pessimistic - but I know I did not really believe that the recovery would be as long as the posts on this site indicated or as friends who have had the surgery told me. (I suppose I did not want to believe it!) The no bending, lifting (my surgeon told me nothing heavier than a gallon of milk until at least after my 4 month x-rays), or twisting really keep you from doing much of anything useful. You just don't realize how much those will limit what you can do - for weeks I could only get to things that were at about waist to shoulder height. Some things at lower levels I could get with the "grabber" - but things like getting food from low shelves in the refrigerator, were simply not an option.

    Clearly, your wife is very lucky to have a spouse who is seeking all this information in advance! I know my husband has been a "prince" and it has made all the difference in the world.

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