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Hello, 31yr old Male. Fusion scheduled for Jan. 13th....Help!!!

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,900
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:26 AM in New Member Introductions

Hello Everyone,

I'm a 31 yr. old male from South Csrolina. My Pain started about 3 months ago and has progressively gotten worse. Sharp pain, dull pain and every other pain on the books. I first saw a neurologist and had the MRI which revealed two degenerated discs,L4-L5. One of the disc, not sure which one, is severely herniated. I stayed with the neurologist through one epidural injection and then went to an ortho. surgeon for a second opinion. Since I know the surgeon personally I decided to switch to him. I had three more injections and the end result was absolutely no relief. His suggestion at that point was to get surgery. After reading some of the posts on the forums here I'm now confused, a little nervous, and still in pain, of course. I've tried some PT but it just hurts too bad to do too much and nothing has relieved the pain what-so-ever. After speaking with the doc about my options, he said I have 3 options, 1)the removal of just the herniated part of the disc. 2) the fusion. 3) Live with it. Obviously, option 3 is off the table. He then told me that he suggested the fusion because in the cases he's dealt with (and it's alot)that are young and active he's seen that by just removing the herniated part leaves the chance of it herniating again and then being back at square one.
My concerns are mainly with the recovery time that goes along with the more invasive surgery (the fusion). My job as a marketer for a hospice does not include any lifing or physical labor at all. I do, however, have to drive from account to account all day, and getting in and out of the car is when my pain is at it's worse until I can walk it off for about 30min. I told the surgeon that my main objectives are to be able to hold my son,play ball with him and walk my dogs. He said that should not be a problem at all once I'm recovered. I know I'm rambling but there's just soooo many thoughts and nerves running wild in my head that I don't know what to do. Any and all suggestions/advice will be greatly appreciated. Looking mainly for actual recovery time and when I can start to drive and get back to work post-surgery. Doc says to expect to be out of work for at least a month until I can effectively drive. Anyone been able to start working sooner?? All advice welcome. Thanks if you read this long blabbering post. Looking forward o some replies.

I should probaly specify that this in my lumbar spine...L4-L5. Pain down my entire left leg, more intense in left thigh thru my shin and foot. Also intense pain in groin area at times.


  • Sorry to hear about your herniated, aching discs. Disc/nerve pain can be unbearable, and the fear of possible loss can be overwhelming. I was reading yesterday about the statistics of which is better: fusion or no fusion over time. The verdict, according to my research, was that there was a slight, though not great advantage of doing the surgery. Some of the people I know: went on to play professional football, returned to being a surgeon after double level fusion, and some felt great and went back to a fairly regular life. Some, on the other hand have regretted the day they walked in the surgeon's door because their fusions failed. So, that being said, make sure you have done your research about fusions as there could be positive or negative outcomes. Recovery times vary greatly depending on age, adjacent segment disease, genes, conditioning going into surgery, attitude, and so on. From the folks I have talked to, a couple of months to four months seems to be common for going back to work depending on what kind of work (but do your homework on that one as I am not a doc--I have only talked to a lot of people). Your youth is definitely on your side! Follow the doc's orders to a "T" after surgery, as people who do that tend to do better in the long run than those that don't. If you are doing well, it is tempting to go overboard and push yourself too soon. I hope and pray that you have one of those miraculously good and speedy recoveries. Let us know how surgery goes so we can cheer you on. In the meantime, merry Christmas.
  • Hi SeaHawk
    I just joined and was about to introduce myself when I saw your post. Viva South Carolina! I was just there for a week last month just before my spine surgery on Nov 26th. I had a bit more than a discectomy, and I am feeling pretty darn good for being 3 weeks and three days out. I am still taking oxycodone post operatively, every 6 hours and 600mg ibuprofen every 12 hours. All in all this was a MUCH easier recovery than when I had surgery on my broken ankle. Everyone is different though, and not all surgeries are a great success.

    My Doc said it would take a full 4-5 months for the fusion to complete, but the back pain would take less time. Everyone is different. I can't imagine you going to work or driving around on oxycodone, but I know some friends who were able to manage their pain with ibuprofen alone, and if you are one of them, you may be able to go to work sooner. I am guessing three weeks may be ok, but you are the judge and you have to trust how you feel and what your body tells you.

    I am an innkeeper and so far I have resumed very few of my duties, which are mostly household chores. I can cook a little and do dishes. I obviously have no trouble using the computer, but must get up and walk OFTEN. I was told not to drive for two to four weeks, but I have made a few short trips after two weeks. No more than 10 miles though. God help me if I get in an accident. I'll post back next week with an update on my recovery. Don't be afraid. Listen to your body.

    Edit - Noticing now that your ailments are all cervical, I think your doctor is wise to tell you 4 weeks until you drive. Driving is harder on the neck than the lumbar, with all that turning to see what's going on. Be careful. Be safe.
  • Welcome to the forum. I agree with the two post before mine. Every one recovers differently even with the same type of surgery or pain. I think you know if you made the right choice. I don't know if you have the kind of time it takes to read most of the post in this forum but it sure helped me before and after my surgeries. I was so afraid it kept me awake nights and i made sure i had all my affairs in order before surgery just in case. I prayed alot and so did many other people for my surgery and recovery. I am the type of person who refuses to be kept down or out and i pushed myself thru the pain and made myself get well as quickly as i could because i hate being handicapted. I wish you well in your surgery and recovery.
    God bless.

    Evelyn :H
    Had PLIF in 2008 and a Laminectomy. One level fusion, L4-L5.
  • Welcome to Spine Health and we're glad to share experiences with you. As you know, herniated discs don't feel good :''(
    I had a 2 level fusion with hardware about 7 months ago. The post op pain was out of this world, and thankfully I had a PCA machine. I was in ICU and spent 5 days in the hospital. It is a big incision and you'll have a drainage tube coming out of your back, and of course you won't be able to lay on it. Don't expect a good night's sleep either. Later on I was allowed to drive in 3 weeks after my first post op visit. I continued to have a lot of pain and had a ct myelogram done. All i was told was that I was fusing well At 12 weeks i started PT but was let go due to no improvement. At this point, I am aware that surgery hasn't worked out and was told there was nothing more surgically that can be done at this time. So now I live chronic intractable pain and take several medications to help me function.
    There are no guarantees when it comes to back surgery. It's a 50/50 educated gamble. Educate yourself fully before venturing into this. Like I was told, some people do well, some stay the same, and some get worse.
    I really hope your upcoming surgery is a success and that you have an uneventful and speedy recovery. Take care

  • Sorry to hear it didnt work for ya. I'm reaaly glad that you posted though. If I get the fusion, will I be looking at the same kind of pain and is 5 days in the hospital normal or were there complications? Man, I really feel for ya, having to live with the pain. Is that your absolute only option or is there hope for future procedures?
  • I am also in SC. I had an endoscopic microdiscectomy and also laser surgery last year. The reason that I had the laser surgery was to firm and tighten the disc so that it would lessen the likelihood for reherniation. So far, so good. Remember that none of us here on the forum are qualified to give medical advice but you asked for opinions so here is mine. Why not do the microdiscectomy first since it is the least invasive? That may be all that you need. If it does not work than you can always go back and have the fusion. On the other hand if you jump straight into the fusion and it fails, it can never be undone. So, if like some your pain is worsened by the fusion, you are pretty much stuck with it. My motto is to always try the least invasive option first. Good luck to you and please keep us posted.
    BTW- Are you aware that once one level is fused it puts more pressure on the levels above and could lead to more fusions? Lots to think about.
  • I had my L4/L5 fusion almost 6 weeks ago. I also had an ADR from the front as well, same day/time. Surgery was just over 2 hours and I went home the next day. Walked down the hospital halls several hours after surgery and had NO PAIN from my back, just incisional pain. I drove 10 days later(about 30 Miles) to pick up my husband from the airport. I did fine but realized I should have waited another week to drive. I am lucky, Had a great surgical team. I stayed as active as possible before surgery and I believe it helped the recovery process. I feel so good I cannot believe I suffered so long with shots and pain and to wake up from surgery to have the pain GONE! I wish you the best, are you getting a disc replacement?? Good Luck!
  • Thank you for your concern and I truly hope this turns out favorable for you. I guess the more levels they fuse, the more complicated the operation is. The average stay is 3-5 days. I have read some were able to walk by the same night or the second day. I wasn't made to walk at all. I may wind up looking to have an SCS or morphine pump put in later on. For now I am fortunate to have good doctors handling my case.

  • Not getting disc replacement. I actually am looking over my pre-op paperwork and it says the surgery type is L4-5, PLIF, pedicle screws. I have no idea what it all means, i just know it's fusion. Do you have any idea and can you explain it to me? thanks.
  • the procedure tab at the top of this page. It will explain it very clearly to you.
  • I myself am 28. I had a lower back fusion with 6 screws,rods and cadaver bone put in...they had to manipulate my bones into place. mine is degenerative as well..my bones chip and brake almost like chalk...anyways after the surgery it was the worst thing i could ever have imagined...not trying to scarre ya...just the truth from my eyes hun. Was bad im sure for most anyone whos had this done? I am post opp 2 years almost now...My bone graph has not taken...and i now have at least 2 screws broken. I am schedualed to have them removed on the 7th. My screws stick out more than they used to from being broken, pluss anytime i move a certain way I have the worst shooting pains along my right side of back. SO scared about this next surgery it aint even funny! :jawdrop: But once again this is me! I have a lot of factors aginst me! I do too much physical stuff...i smoke and drink carbonated beverages..."thets both very bad for bone patcients.
    If in hospital your in alot of pain, dontbe affraid to ask for more. You might need it...I was out out for about a month after surgery, month before i got out of bed and moved to chair...lol...few more months later i started walking round back yard...just SLOWLY started getting better to deal with ..."alot of it has to do with pain killers", ive been on norco and morphine for 2 1/2 yrs+? Trust me i honestly do not think i could do half the stuff i do withought it!
    Everyone heals difrently...im sure youll fair well...i realy hate pain, am kinda of a puss...but let us all know what you learn and or how it turns out ..goodluck, if u need to ask anything else write me again incase i forget to look back here! WOuld love to help if i can...knows its scary! @) ima wreck about this next one, under the knife.
  • Nothing with my discs. I had a spondy (a broken vertebra) and so my situation is different than yours PLUS I'm a great deal older (just turned 58 when I had the surgery). I did believe the post-op was pretty brutal but was up walking the same day as the surgery and was encouraged to walk as much as I could (without overdoing it---which was a conundrum I grappled with on a daily basis) and was doing well, constantly improving, pain improving until, whammo, it all started getting worse. This is not an unusual story. It has to do with scar tissue formation around the nerve root and there doesn't seem to be any known way to prevent it. It either happens or it doesn't. If it happens, you'll be like Meydey and me. If it doesn't you'll be fine. But this, I think is the big risk and would agree with Painintheback. Your surgeon says, "if you fix just the disc, you MAY have to go back and have a fusion". Okay, then you go back and have the fusion. But, as she said, "you cannot undo a bad one". Talk to your surgeon about scar tissue. Ugh!

  • Thanks to all who have posted, I have a list of questions for my surgeon now. I otherwise would not have known a single thing about any of this. Keep the replies comin' and Thanks so much again.
  • SeaHawk and painintheback...where in SC do y'all live?
    I grew up in Seneca (near Clemson) and lived in SC until I was 30...I'm 51 now and can't wait to get back in a couple of years for good!...I can't take this armpit state of FL much longer...so it's back to The Greatest State in the Union soon! God Bless SC

    no advice about your fusion as I have mine coming up next month...hope you start to feel better soon! I'll give you the lowdown after I get back home

  • I am from Myrtle Beach born and raised. I've also lived in Florida {Delray Beach), LA,DC and Chicago. Always end up back home though. I've been to Seneca, its nice. I have a friend that I played football with named Gary Hamby, he's from Walhalla. ya know him?
  • SeaHawk3 said:

    I am from Myrtle Beach born and raised. I've also lived in Florida {Delray Beach), LA,DC and Chicago. Always end up back home though. I've been to Seneca, its nice. I have a friend that I played football with named Gary Hamby, he's from Walhalla. ya know him?
    I don't believe so on Gary...I'm in Jacksonville now...there are some Hamby's from Seneca whose daughter went to high school with me....a "few" years before you, I'm sure. A girl, Cindy, who is my age (51). Ah, yea, MB...The Bowry and The Upper Room...those were days that can never be replaced...my memory is escaping me on the name of the motel that had the crosswalk where you could climb up and jump off into their Olympic sized pool. I went to college with a girl from MB...I can't remember her name, but I surely can remember everything else about her. I've got childhood friends in Georgetown, and now you've got me wanting some Calabash and Murrell's Inlet seafood
  • did you know that they closed down the Pavillion and amusements in MB? A real travesty. Trying to make it for golfers only I guess. I too have tons of memories from MB. I never wanted to live there though. I am from Charleston.
  • the collapse of that new park is the karma they get for closing the Pavilion...shame on them for closing all that stuff down

    I've got a cousin who was an elementary school principal that has lived in Mount Pleasant for 30 years...she "upgraded" after living in Goose Creek for a few years
  • That is questionable. I lived in Goose Creek and you could not pay me to live in Mt. Pleasant with all the yuppies. I guess it all depends on what you are looking for.
  • painintheback, I was not taking a shot at that area at all in that sense. I was only meaning in terms of the general cost of the two areas. I, too, am neither Mt Pleasant nor Isle of Palms material by any means. And yes, you are correct...it is all in what you want

    I did not mean to offend you or strike a nerve

  • Yea, they should have just upgraded the existing Pavilion instead of allowing the new one. It was a disaster from the start and the new folks that came in didn't listen to ANY of the suggestions from the local businesses with proven success of seasonal and off-season marketing/operations. I actually used to deliver beer to The Bowery in my younger years, when I was 18 i mean. Did you know that the owner would buy all Natural Light kegs and then tap them as Budweiser and Bud Light. Nobody can really tell the difference anyway when it comes to draft and they bought so many kegs a week that we would just allow it. Funny little story though. My office is in Murrells Inlet and yes, I do enjoy the seafood as well, Calabash too.
    Painintheback- I went to Charleston Southern University, played a little football there, back when we were horrible. They've seemed to gotten a little better since they hired a new coach though. If I had to live another place in SC than here, it would be Charleston for sure. As you two have some stories from here, I've got some from Charleston as well. Haha!
    I went to do my Pre-Op lab work today. Really not looking forward to the surgery. (who would?) I found out a little more about the details. I'm getting a L4-5 PLIF with some kinda screws. This is what my surgeon suggested. Someone on here asked why not get the less invasive surgery and just have them take out the severely herniated part of the disc and if it herniates again than fuse it at that point. My sergeons reply when I asked him was that both discs are degenerated and he's seen with young, active patients that he's mostly had to do the surgery again within a short period of time. Any comments or suggestions will be appreciated, Thanks again.
  • I was not offended at all. I was actually joking about it. :D
  • that said that I would always opt for the least invasive first. There are sooooo many people that have failed fusions and worse pain. Just take a look at the last several new members. Of course some are successful but I think the odds are 50/50. It is of course your decision to make though. Good luck in whatever you decide.
  • Hello SeaHawk

    Its vidal you do what the Doctors say after surgery!
    If you use tobacco at all you need quit it will slow down healing
    process! ;))
    First month you need be careful if you was to fall i could
    mess up where you had surgery!

    You may feel better after two months but your back not complete healed! #o
    The medicate can fool you in thinking your back healed as well!

    It can take any where from 6 to 9 months for your back to heal! :jawdrop:

    If they use screws and rods in your back they will need to come out after
    you have complete healed!

    If not the screws and rods can cause you lot of unwanted pain! :''(

    In my case i was injury when i was 37 hand surgery a year later!

    Being type person that doesn't like to be tight down and stubborn! =;

    After two days in the hospital i went home against the Doc better judgment! #o

    In first two weeks i had have someone help me do every thing . :''(

    My 3 week i was up moving around on the computer even driving my self!

    The fourth week i was walking on flat ground and fell .

    The bone in one of my fusion moved and healing stopped !

    I now have one that healed and one that not healed.

    There hole about the size of nickle you can see in the x-rays in my spine. :jawdrop:

    It will never heal and i can never have back surgery again!

    Doctors said it would be to dangerous for my health and i could or i could end up
    in wheelchair! :jawdrop:

    Good luck SeaHawk <):)

  • Thanks chronic, You have me pegged. I do use tobacco, Copenhagen Snuff. Guess I will have to quit. I definitely don't want to slow the healing the process. Thanks for your help.
  • I smoke cig's too. dr said thats a good part to why my fusion didnt take and why my screws broke. :''( that..as well as drinking carbonated drinks...and lifestyle...so be carefull. :SS
  • I just had a 2 level TLIF on 11/17 and am feeling pretty good. Your post has scared me to death. How long post surgery did your recovery stall and you started to feel worse due to the scar tissue?? I am so sorry for you.
  • Sorry, I'm new to the site and need to introduce myself but my last response was to Stockbroker. Thank you
  • I hope your pre op visit was a little reassuring in a way. Now you know more details about your fusion. The type of screws they usually go with are titanium. I was told at my clinic that during the winter, titanium gets cold and it causes more pain. I was surprised to hear that, and wondered if that was ever written about. Anyway, don't mean to scare you, it's just one of the many things you're not told about and wished you knew. If your doctor says anything about that, please let me know, I'm very curious. Well, I'll be behind you all the way and thinking of you on Jan. 13. Take care and have fun during these festivities. <:P
  • Wow, there are alot of people out there who have had very challenging hospitalizations and recoveries. I know you said you chose a friend to do your surgery. I hope your friend has a stellar reputation and is up to date in all the new techniques available to you. I researched surgeons and ended up driving from the Cleveland/Akron area to Cincinnti. No way was I going the Cleveland Clinic route, not that they aren't good with some things, they're just not for me. The doctor I chose stated that he would only allow a resident surgeon to watch and not touch. That was important to me as I am a nurse and I know first hand the horror stories.I chose a neurosurgeon because I preferred someone who was accustommed to delicate surgeries as opposed to an ortho who saws bones. Now I know I opened up a can of worms and will hear from many readers. The bottom line is that regardless of who you chose to operate on you that you have done your research in regards to their skills. Also, what type of technique is being used . . . there are many new less invasive methods, arthroscopic tools and microscopes. I had a TLIF L5-S1 and a Posterior arthrodises L4-L5, I have 6 titanium screws with the new FDA approved Dyanesis flexible hardware for the L4 portion and the L5-S1 is fused with bmp which my neurosurgeon stated was the best material he has ever seen for a fusion. (Yes, I know you aren't having a fusion)I spent 2 overnights on a surgical floor with a Morphine Pca pump for 1 day. Typically a patient like me goes home the next day and doesn't have a Pca pump. Any more these types of hospital stays are the norm, althought some readers here have experienced much worse. So, be optimistic, do your research. I'm 12 days post op and feel really great except for the burning sensation in my lower leg and foot that is expected to go away and is just from the previously compressed nerves being decompressed so they are irritated. Maybe I'm not the norm but for you and everyone else facing surgery I hope the best..and if you are scared it is normal. Ask for a valium while you are getting ready to go to OR, it helps!!!
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