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Fusion Surgery

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,731
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:25 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi,
I'm 31 and have had 2 previous back surgeries. The 1st was when I was 23 at L4-L5 for herniated disc with nerve compression that caused my left leg to be numb. The 2nd was when I was 28 at L5-S1 for the same thing.

I have went through physical therapy at 3 different places, heat/cold therapy,electrical stimulation and TENS therapy, ultrasound, manipulation, pain meds, herbal supplements, acupunture, pain management, decompression/traction, laser therapy, massage therapy at 2 different places, epidural steroid injections, and cortizone shots.

After a discogram and additional CT scan I was told a spinal fusion was possible but no guarantees as it could help but it could also make me worse.

I am a single mother of a 14 yr old son and a 7 mo. old daughter.

Before the pregnancy my back was in good condition (because of the acupuncture) and my doctor said I should be fine with proper care during pregnancy. During delivery, they did not want to do a C-Section and I went thru it all natural without anything, but there were complications and we lost my daughters heartbeat....I was repositioned (on my side with my torso twisted) and stayed in that position during labor for 5 hrs. Since then I have had constant pain to the point of being in tears and having to have assistance to get out of bed. I am currently wearing a brace and using a walker because of my leg numbness and weakness.

My doctors have had me off work for a year now, I lost my job, and will loose my insurance Dec 31. My neurosurgen says if I am going to agree to the surgery I will need to have it Dec 30 (only time he can fit me in before my insurance expires)

My worry is, will I still be able to care for myself and my children after surgery.How long will it take for recovery. Doctor says 1 year.

Is it worth it, all I have heard about are failed surgeries?
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Comments

  • Everyone's outcome and recovery is different from surgery all our bodies are different. Please do not give up hope or think that because it didn't work for others means it won't work for you. I've had numerous procedures done that didn't work for me but I don't discourage anyone from trying them as I've heard success stories too.

    I understand where you are coming from as I had to rush into surgery after months of fighting with my insurance to pay for the surgery I needed X( . During this time period I too lost my job but was covered for 27 weeks. That date has come and gone and I am still in pain. I went without insurance for 2 months and had to pay out of pocket which meant I had to pull all my retirement out to pay for meds, drs and bills. Luckily, I was eligible for gov't assistance with insurance and am still getting long term disability which may run out in Feb 09. I was hoping to be better by then but my prognosis is not looking good.

    I wish you the best of luck and pray that you will have pain free days and please keep in mind that we are not health professionals and are just going by our own experience or opinion.
  • Keep in mind that currently, 95% of spinal fusions in the US are successful. Most of what you see on the internet are horror stories because the successful patients are out enjoying life and typically don't take the time to post their stories online.

    I am only 3 months post-surgery, but I am very glad I did it. The original pain is gone - I'm just dealing with post-operative pain now. I had problems on and off for 19 years and my only regret is not dealing with it sooner.

    Full recovery may take 1-2 years, but recovery starts immediately after surgery. Each doctor is different, but it seems fairly standard to have restrictions for the first 3 months, if not longer. These include no bending, twisting or lifting (BLT). In my case, it was no lifting anything more than 3-5 pounds for the first 6 weeks, no more than 10 pounds for the next month and a half, and now it is limited to 25 pounds (I am not comfortable with that yet, but it won't cause any problems).

    In addition, you will probably need a back brace - timing will differ between doctors - mine was for 3 months. Some people need it longer and some doctors don't even have their patients use them.

    In all honesty, I was probably able to take care of myself after 3-4 weeks. However, that only includes basic things at home. My wife did the grocery shopping and made meals. We put the microwave in a place where I did not have to bend, so I was able to use it to heat up meals.

    Your biggest problem will be dealing with your daughter because you will not be able to pick her up, or bend down to get her if she in on the floor. Do you have any friends or family who can help you out during the initial recovery period?

    Another thing to consider is how long you will be without insurance. As part of the surgical cost, my surgeon covered office visits for the first 3 months after the procedure (3 visits), but not the x-rays. Some doctors may cover everything through the entire first year, others may charge for each office visit. It would be best to confirm this with your surgeon ahead of time.

    Good luck - I hope everything works out for you.
  • hey jenhelper

    i had c1 c2 fused twice --see below--- so far so good for me. it has been 12 weeks. i see ns this thursday and have several tests tomorrow.

    i also have a seven yr son and i am divorced. it was really hard for me to manage post operatively but i did it and am continuing to do it.

    u will too. arrange for help ahead of time. u gotta do what u gotta do. we are always here to listen when u need to b$%^ch and complain. we have all done it.

    stay strong and plan ahead.
  • I had mine L3-L4-S1 fusion done on 10/20/2008 this was ALIF and PLIF, as they had to cut from front to put some pins to hold spine from front, and PLIF from back to put hardware and screws, it was complicated, but after 6 weeks, it is getting better. You need lot of patience, and help from family or friends to take care of regular and ordinary things, as we take things granted, but after surgery you will have to take lot of precautions. Hopefully things will be better for you.

    Good Luck :)
  • I had L4/5 ALIF/PLIF and the end of July 2008. My recovery has not been horribly painful but certainly long and slow. However, I am mostly pain-free and am getting past being exhausted all the time. I can manage very short shopping - under an hour, and can do stuff around the house as long as I don't bend, twist or lift. With the assistance of my handy-dandy grabber I can do the laundry. Wearing my brace and being really careful I can clean the floors using the Swiffer or lightweight rechargeable vacuum. I am far from back to normal but am getting there. The back pain I had before surgery is gone - though the hip pain remains (but it is bearable and only bothers me if I go up and down the stairs too much or walk for too long).

    In my case, there is no question that the surgery has made a difference - and really I had no options if I wanted to avoid possible paralysis. I also have a friend who t had her 3rd back surgery in March 2008 - a fusion - and is pain free for the first time in years. Now she is able to do just about anything she wants to as long as she paces herself and doesn't overdo. However, she was in very good physical condition before surgery and has worked hard at rehab with lots of walking and PT since surgery. So there are success stories out there.

    As for recovery, my surgeon told me 1 to 2 years for full recovery - before surgery I did not really believe it would take that long but now I know it is true.

    Best of luck with your surgery. Just make sure you have lots of help at home - both for yourself and your family - in the weeks following surgery so that you can devote your energy to resting and healing.
  • Someone already mentioned it, but do look closely at the insurance question.

    Some questions to ask your doctor:
    --If surgery is on the 30th, will you be out of the hospital by the 31st? If not, check if your insurance will continue to cover until you are out of the hospital from the procedure that happened prior to the insurance expiration.
    --What kind of followup should you expect? X-rays, MRI's, office visits, medications. Work out a budget.
    --Contingencies. I have heard from a few folks here of infections, albeit minor, but involving trips to the emergency room, or in a couple of cases, a minor followup surgery.

    These are just a few thoughts for you if you are looking to get in "under the wire" before insurance expires. There is a lot more to it than just the procedure to consider.

    Can you hold off until you have time to do more research, get a second opinion? Or are you in so much pain now that you need to take action, regardless? Surgery is a Pandora's box, I've been treating my L5/S1 re-herniation conservatively for 11 months, and recently decided to have surgery because I'm not making progress and it's impacting my quality of life.

    Only you can make the final decision re: surgery, with the guidance of your doctor, but I know my surgeon would not schedule me until I could look him in the eye and say I was completely ready to move ahead with it.

    Good luck to you, keep us posted.
    -melissa
  • has made some really good points here,
    I just want to add that a 7 month old baby can be pretty heavy to pick up so you will need to make sure you ahve someone around to look after her and pick her up when necessary.
    After a fusion there is no BLT bending, lifting, twisting so please be aware of that. It could be months before you are back doing things but you also have 2 very good reasons to do things properly and get well quickly.
    Dont get caught up in what you read here as Mark said we are a very small percentage of people having fusions and the vast majority are a success.

    Blessings Sara O:)
  • You are really between a rock and a hard place, huh girl? :''( It will be so difficult for you to have the surgery unless you have someone maybe come stay with you for a month or so. After the first 2 weeks, you will probably be able to fix very simple meals for your family if all the pots and pans are put up on the counter where you can reach them without bending. (Although, with my handy grabber, I was able to pick up a few of my smaller pans.) It will take going through the house and putting everything you will need for you and the baby at waist height. You definitely will not be able to pick the baby up. How much does the baby weigh? I was able to hold my new grandson in my lap, but I couldn't walk with him after he weighed about 19 lbs., he will be a year old next month, but he's just a little peanut! Do you have parents that could come stay with you? And you probably won't be driving for a while. My doc told me not to drive before 2 weeks, but since I was still taking pain pills, I didn't drive.

    Are you getting disability payments or unemployment funds? Is there any type of medical insurance for people on such limited resources? I wouldn't even know who to ask about that.

    Is your doctor advising fusion surgery? If so, how many levels does he want to fuse? As Mark said above, 95% of fusion surgeries are successful, but it is a very long road to recovery. It's been 5 months since my fusion and I'm definitely not back to where I was before the surgery. However, like you, I didn't want to keep on living the way I was living. I would have flare ups of the pain in the butt radiating all the way down one leg to the point where I could not walk. Almost has to crawl to get to the bathroom. It happened about 4 times and would last about a week each time. The last time it happened, I just cried and said, "I can't live like this anymore." I called the surgeon that day and had him put me on his calendar. All of the leg pain that I had was gone immediately after surgery. Now it's just a matter of the nerves healing from so much trauma.

    I wish I lived close to you---I could come play with the baby and give you big hugs! I wish you well in making this big decision, love. >:D< >:D<
  • Hey do you mind if I ask why you had the surgery?? My daughter is 15 and she had a c1 c2 fusion on Dec 17th. She too is in a miami j. When we went to her surgeon he told us that she has to continue wearing for at least another 6 weeks. He did however tell her to go back to school, and get on with her life. He told her she can go to the gym and walk the treadmill and stuff. You had the surgery three times??? omg!!!
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