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Back surgery

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:29 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
:/ Hi, I'm new to the site and I am facing back surgery. I am having a L4-5 L5-S1 Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion on march 30. I found the post op check list which is wonderful. Wonder if there is anyone out there who can tell me what to expect with this surgery and it's recovery?


  • Just type in TLIF into the Search box and you will see that there are many discussions of this procedure. You can read through some of them and gain lots of information. If you have specific questions, I am sure there will be someone who is currently on the board who has had a TLIF.

    I had a similar fusion a year ago.(PLIF at L4-5 for spondylolisthesis and stenosis) I think anyone would tell you that it is a BIG surgery and it will take awhile for you to recover. Get your house ready now so things will be in place for post-surgery recovery. If you will be doing the cooking, even eventually, arrange the things you will need so that you they are easily accessible to you without requiring any bending or reaching on your part.

    Two things I found to be a necessity were a raised toilet seat and satin sheets. You will find that your muscles will be weak after surgery and it will be difficult to turn over or reposition yourself in the bed. Some people rent hospital beds to make this a bit easier. I did not. With regular sheets you will feel like you are stuck with velcro to the bed. A slippery bottom sheet really helps you to move in the bed.

    Keep a pad of paper and pencil near your bed. It is very important to take your pain meds on the schedule that is prescribed to you, even if this means setting an alarm and waking up to take them. You do not want to let the pain get ahead of you. Write it down on your pad so there will be no question what you took when. Some meds may be taken at different times of day. Writing it down will keep you from getting confused over whether you took something, or forgot!! And at the beginning, you will probably be a bit out of it.

    You may find it helpful to have someone around for the first week or two. It is not necessary, but helpful...at least the first week. I slept quite a bit the first week. When I got up to use the bathroom, I did my walking, and then right back to bed. You will be limited in you long you can sit up...usually it is about 15 minutes at the beginning. You will be asked to walk as that is the best exercise after back surgery. It gets the blood flowing which helps with bone growth and it also stretches the nerves which may have been compressed prior to surgery.

    You will see from reading through the various threads that everyone heals at his/her own pace. We are all different. I had a typical fusion with no surprises. I was on pain meds for the first 8 weeks and then nothing after that. I did not drive during that time. I began physical therapy at 15 weeks. Many surgeons start it before then and some wait till 6 months or don't order it at all, thinking it can do more damage than good. It all depends on their experience.

    Will you be wearing a brace after surgery? That too depends on the surgeon....For the first eight to twelve weeks, you will be instructed to avoid all activities that require you to bend or twist and you should not lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk.

    You will find that the healing process requires a great deal of patience and takes longer than you think it should! I always say it is baby steps...and often two steps forward and a baby step back...as you continue down the road to recovery.

    You will find that the pain meds are very constipating, so stock up on foods that will help relieve that problem. I like prunes so I just ate those and things high in fiber. I bought some fiber bars, drank a lot of 100% juice like grape or cran/pomegranate and took a stool softener. Again you want to stay ahead of this so it does not become a big problem. Drink LOTS of fluids and walk when you can.

    Regarding the hospital, I didn't take much with me. I wore their hospital gown and robe and little slippers. I did not feel like doing much. When I wasn't working with the physical therapist, I was snoozing. Some people take laptops and stuff to do. I did not feel like doing anything. The morning after the surgery I developed a completely new pain in the front of my thigh and I was heavily medicated that day.

    I imagine you will have a catheter at the beginning and possibly, a drain. I ended up having my surgery on a Monday evening (it was scheduled at 3, but they were running late...so I went in at 6 and was back in my room around 10:30 p.m.). I was discharged on Thursday afternoon. I think that is fairly typical for a fusion.

    My son got married on June 7th and I danced at the wedding.

    Let me know if I can answer specific questions. It is normal to feel nervous, but it will all be over before you know it and you'll be on the road to recovery.

    xx Gwennie :H

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