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ALIF Scheduled

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,662
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:27 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
After a failed discectomy in Dec. (resulting in more pain in legs and drop foot) I had my discogram done,(man, THAT hurt!) and I have two ruptured discs, L4/5 and S1 instead of the previously thought L4/5. I saw the vascular surgeon who's supposed to carve into me and scoop around my innards "like if you were to stick your hand into the inside of an orange peel without penetrating the flesh" so my NS can do "His" stuff. MY NS will be using cadaver bone (freaks me out a bit) and bone marrow from my hip that will be aspirated during surgery, and spun down.

I'd LOVE to hear of other's recovery, and what you did to keep yourself busy in the hospital. Were you able to climb stairs as soon as you got home? What about lifting objects (in my case babies) that weigh over 30 lbs? Was constipation an issue? (It ALREADY is with me and MS Contin). How has your pain changed/gotten better since recovery?

As of right now I have my ALIF scheduled for June when my husband can be home to help me with kids/eveerything. He's a High School teacher and football coach, so I need to be well BEFORE August. Well as in able to care for the kids. Would this have been possible in your case/recovery? If you knew what you know now after your surgery, would you opt for an earlier surgery if you needed to be "well" in 8 weeks? I know recovery is a personal thing, such as pain. But ALL input is greatly appreciated.

Shelley in the Pacific Northwest


  • Hi Shelley;
    I'm just 2 weeks post op, so don't know that I can offer up too much help but I can answer a few things -

    -I scheduled back in November, as medications were keeping the pain at bay and I had a number of things going on (work schedules, holidays, help from my sister and her schedule) that I wanted to coordinate around. Thus far, no regrets in waiting (scheduling about 10 weeks in advance). I also discussed this with my surgeon (ortho) if I would be risking permanent nerve damage by waiting to have surgery, he said no. So be sure to have that discussion.

    -You ask about passing the time in the hospital, I just have to say - I brought 4 magazines, knitting... I think I cracked one of the magazines open once. I never turned on my TV. I slept. I slept while I was eating, I slept when people showed up to see me, I just slept! Time passed.

    -Constipation is an issue with the opioids, I take omega 3 (fish oil) suppliments and peri-colace. I'm able to go almost every day. Alot of people here recommend Miralax too.

    -Pain - no nerve pain since waking up :))) I do ache though, but the aches pass. Nerves are waking up, I have some pins and needles in my foot, numbness that I don't recall but it may have been there before, its hard to say when you are so distracted by nerve pain.

    -Lifting - 30 lbs? Whoa. I'm not lifting more than my laptop, but the "BLT" (bending, lifting, twisting) restrictions are generally reviewed at the 6 week post op appointment. Again, a good question for your surgeon.

    I am taking 8-12 weeks medical leave, and I have an office job, so 8 weeks may be workable. Hope this helps some.
  • I had ALIF/PLIF in late July 2008. Because I am 20 years older than you I would imagine your recovery will be faster than mine. However, I can answer a couple of your questions, I think.

    Stairs - my surgeon said I could certainly go up and down stairs when I got home if I did it once or twice a day only. And I could - but I really did not want to for at least a couple of weeks. So, I slept on the sofa - which was actually more comfortable for me than our bed for awhile.

    I think the no "bending, lifting, twisting" thing is pretty much the common element among all the surgeons. Mine did not clear me for more than 10 lbs for at least 4 months. He was very adament about this - stressing that I did not want to risk messing up the surgery and having to have it re-done. Do talk to your doc about this well in advance. You may need help with lifting babies well beyond 8 weeks.

    Ask your surgeon about any other restrictions - for example, I had to wear a turtle-shell brace for 4 months any time I was out of bed. It is huge and ugly and pretty much prevents any bending or twisting. Also - and this one totally freaked me out - I was not allowed to shower for 14 days after surgery. That was awful. I figured out a way to sit by the sink and have my husband wash my hair by pouring water over my head but I have never been so glad to have a shower in my life!

    Passing the time in the hospital - I took all kinds of stuff and never took any of out of the bag. And for the first couple of weeks at home, even staying awake to watch TV was a challenge. I did use my MP3 player at home to listen to audiobooks - light entertaining stuff - because I found being read to quite soothing. But I often fell asleep about 5 minutes after I turned it on.

    My advice - give yourself as much time with as much help as you can get. You may not need it but if you do you will be glad you planned for it.

    Do check out the list of Post-Op Must-haves if you have not. It is very, very good! Also read the many posts here from others who have had ALIF or PLIF or both. Though recovery rates differ, it is still a long, slow recovery.

  • Thanks sooo much for your input. I noticed that we are the same age and similar surgery. Did the "cadaver" bone creep you out? I'm trying to wrap my brain around it.

  • I was kind of thinking that audiobooks would be the way to go. I'll probably see what the library has. I do know we have The Lord of the Rings on audiobook. That should help me get some sleep! I'm also planning on getting the babies over to daycare a few days a week to stretch the other help out. Two weeks without a shower? Yikes! I'm probably going to cheat on that one!
    Thanks for your input!
  • With a choice of cadaver bone or harvesting from the iliac crest of my pelvis, I chose cadaver bone. The iliac crest, I've heard, can be a painful recovery in itself. I'm also a believer in donating my organs and anything that I can when the time comes, so I guess I thought of it in terms of karma too. I am grateful to the donor, and hope they drank alot of milk :)))

    Also forgot to mention, I did bring my iPod to the hospital, I have an FM receiver and listened to the radio and podcasts. Also saw you mentioned about showers; I was told to keep my incision dry for 2 weeks. I fashioned something out of Saran wrap and first aid tape after a week, I soooo needed a shower!

    PM me if you have any questions, I'm happy to help out. Its scary, the great unknown.
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