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Post Fusion Surgery Pain Control (Or Lack Thereof)

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,670
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:28 AM in Pain Management
Okay, I recently had a 4-level lumbar fusion. I have had TMJ surgery & two smaller back surgeries & I have been on Fentanyl patches & Percocet for at least five years. I have tried other pain meds, but they just don't work very well for me. Well, when I came to after my fusion surgery, I was at a FULL 10 on the pain scale. They hooked me up to a Dilaudid pain pump, applied a fentanyl patch & sent me to post-op, x-ray & finally to a room. Well, I stayed in a very deep, dark, scary level-10 pain HELL for four days, with no relief. Some folks did not bellieve me when I told them I was a ten. One nurse even told me there was no way I could be a ten because that level was reserved for folks in labor, with kidney stones, with broken femurs & with thumbnails that had been smashed by a hammer! WHHAATTT???!

In fact, at one point, one of the pain management folks asked me what I wanted them to give me for pain control. I could not believe it! I am NOT the pain specialist, you are. But it seems to me that if one pain reliver does not show any improvement over that period of time, MAYBE you should try SOMETHING else!

This is what upsets me the most. In all of the literature, you are told flat out, that there will be pain after surgery, but that it will be managed with medications. And when it turns out that it is not, and not even believed by one or two folks, you have absolutely no where to go. I couldn't even escape into sleep, as I was alert & too painful to fall asleep.

The docs gradually upped my Dilaudid to very high levels, then physical therapy sat me up in a chair for the first time. After 10 minutes my blood pressure plummetted & I passed out with almost nonexistant blood pressure. They shoot a clear liquid in my IV to negate all pain meds given to me so far. This negation was perfectly OK with me, as I had not yet received relief. However, I was in a VERY scary state, one I never wish to be in again. They eventually put me on Morphine with major doses of anti-inflammatories & muscle relaxers. By the FOURTH day my pain came down to a NINE.

OK, so I have been on pain meds for over five years, but I know of many people that take much higher doses & more types of drugs than I. Additionally, I feel I can take a lot of pain before I just lose it completely - more than your avereage bear. I know the pain scale is subjective, but I have A LOT of experience trying to judge where I am on the scale. I am not a drug seeker. In fact, one major reason for having this monster surgery is the hope that one day my drug needs will drastically descrease, if not disappear altogether. I don't smoke & I don't drink. I do want my life back.

I am very worried about what I went through. I cannot tolerate the thought of ever going through that experience again. When I talked to my doctor about it afterward, he said that I just must have a huge tolerance to pain medication & that if I ever went back under, to explain to my surgeon that i was on Dilaudid & Morphine, they didn't work very well, & to ask his anesthesiologist to consider an OR-type pain reliver that has to be more closely monitored. WHAT???? Also, as I heal & can come down on my dosage, that will help too.

Has ANYONE ever run into this problem out there? Do you know who or where I could turn to protect myself from having to experience this scenario ever again? Also, to help prevent others from haveing to experience it? Thanks in advance for your help.


  • My only thought is you need to speak to an anesthesiologist.
    They are the ones who should know how to deal with this. In my experience pain control after surgery is wicked for someone who is pain medicine tolerant and has had surgery. I do not know that my experience is anyways near as bad as yours, but it was bad enough.

    I also do not know if you expect more surgeries in the future. If so I would call the dept that handles the presurgery testing and ask to speak to an anesthetist. For my surgeries there has always been one there to do a pre surgery consult. Then they again did the consult day of surgery.

    I would start by printing out your post above. Take or fax it to someone at the Facility and ask them to review your records and have a plan in place.

    If they are maxing out your meds and you can't have more I don't know what the options are. Perhaps a drug holiday before the surgery. if so, you will be the one to decide if the pain before surgery is preferable to the pain after if you do not take the holiday. When I chose to ignore the holiday (crappy term) before my shoulder replacement I paid the price after. I would like to think I have learned my lesson well. Next time, I will choose the pain before over the pain after. Not an experience I care to repeat. Often we are too sick after to complain loud enough to get help!
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