Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Veritas-Health LLC has recently released patient forums to our Arthritis-Health web site.

Please visit http://www.arthritis-health.com/forum

There are several patient story videos on Spine-Health that talk about Arthritis. Search on Patient stories
Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
Attention New Members
Your initial discussion or comment automatically is sent to a moderator's approval queue before it can be published.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

L5-S1 Fusion question

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,670
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:30 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am new to the site and - well to make a long story short - I am a professional chef, a career change because being a white collar guy was not my passion. (being a real live chef is not anywhere near what you see on tv - kind of a combination of Gordon Ramsay style cooking on the deck of a deadliest catch crab boat - very physical is what I am getting at) anyways -- I or I should say WE - my wife and I have done lots of things for my passion and now I am faced with a possibility of not. She is a nurse practitioner that runs the a practice of my doc (Int. Med). He ordered the MRI after telling her that this may be a career ender...so pills some pain shots etc...referred to spine doc...So after injections, PT, swimming, not lugging heavy stuff - I am faced with LIVE WITH IT or LIVE WITH A DIFFERENT PAIN - is that correct? I have read posts and very few people having a happy story. While I realize this is a major surgery and not cut and dry -no pun intended - SO we are debating the surgery or I am because she told me that it was a hard choice...
So here you go:

I hurt all day with pain down the leg and butt cheek, numb toes and sometimes I am not sure I am even moving my leg because I can't feel it. My mid section gives out without an industrial brace - feel like jello and I lose balance. Take pills when I have to - but most of the time I am trying to focus on my work, it is when I stop that it stabs me. It is all around the horrible pain as many of you have listed. My back is normal other that this problem which has confused many docs...no disc deterioration just L5 out of whack---

Do you - 1 have fusiion L5-S1
or 2 Live with it

Inquiring minds want to know - meaning me. I appreciate you guys so far with your kind words to toher posters and some advice is very very good - can you advise me now?


  • I am glad I had the surgery, but I have accepted I need to change carreers to something that is a little less labor intensive. It used to be I could do 50,000 things, now I can only do 10,000 things. Although some people are able to keep jobs like carrying mail 15 miles a day. Everybody recovers differently.

    That is, I need to change careers if I want to still enjoy things I like to to do other than work.

    It took me a long time and a great deal of suffering to decide and come to a point where I thought the surgery was necessary.

    I can tell you this now though, pain wise I now feel a heck of a lot better than I did prior to surgery. Good luck with your path brother.
  • Jake,

    You are faced with a very tough decision. I was faced with the same decision as well except that I was faced with an L4-L5-S1 fusion. The pain and complications were getting so bad that I never knew when my back and/or legs were going to give out on me but since I could still get out of bed each morning, I kept going. I finally decided that it was worth the chance and had the surgery done.

    I had my 3-disc fusion 5 years ago. Unfortunately, I have severe arthritis and my L3 is bulging causing some pretty bad pain that requires a list of pain meds each day. The difference now is that I know what I am going to have to go through if I choose to have another fusion of the L3-L4. I have decided to wait it out as long as possible because of the surgery time and recovery period.

    I know this isn't what you want to hear but I wanted you to see that you are not alone in this decision. You have to decide if you are at point that there is no other option other than surgery. You can't go back after you have been cut on and your body will never be the same afterwards.

    I hope in some weird way that this helps but if not, the good thing is that there are lots of us here that will give you so helpful information. Hang in there. I hope things get better for you.

  • What did your MRI indicate? Do you have a ruptured disk or stenosis? Did the spine doc recommend fusion, or indicate that was your only option? What kind of spine doc are you seeing? Have you had a second opinion?

    I hope you will provide a bit more information so we know more about you.

    Welcome to the board.
  • I dont know what the reason for surgery is, but I had a friend that had pain down back of her legs and back pain. Had a herniated disc and had fusion like what you are talking about last Sept. She is doing great and prior to that was on morphine for 5 years and in extreme pain. She no longer takes any pain meds and has her life back. Just a good story if you need one.
    I had a two level fusion l4,5 and s1 and discetomey in Dec. with same Dr. Had town discs and so different kind of pain. Am doing ok but my reocvery has been much slower. I am walking and doing well, but it is a long recovery and painful. But I also want my life back and had tried every injection and therapy and such there was, and no help. So my decision was I couldnt feel much worse.
    It is a hard choice, and I would get more than one opinion. I went to 6 neuros and orthos before I settled on what to do. Also, I had done all conservative measures I could do first. Good Luck, nobody can tell you what to do. You have to research and decide what you can and cannot live with. Good Luck.
  • Succesful surgery patients often have no reason to search out and post here! We usually find our way to these places when things have not turned out so great :S

    I can't really offer much more than that.
  • I too had that choice to make. I was a very active recreation director. I also golfed and played tennis and loved playing with my grandchildren. Unfortunately the pain in my leg, butt and foot became worse and worse where I needed a cane. I didnt want it to progress to the point where I couldnt walk. I tried all the conventional cures. (i.e. chiro, shots) Well 9 weeks ago I had a 2 level fusion. I can finally walk upright! Nerve pain is slowly healing but I keep the faith and know I will make a comeback. I have no sciatica or any of that anymore. Everyone is right though...only YOU can make that decision. Good luck with whatever you decide. Oh, by the way, I am 56 and on the mend.
  • to answer the MRI question - Anterlothesis of L5 on S1 with a L5 disc tear...as I said I had NO trauma to do this or wind up this way.
    My lack of sucess has been so far - 3 Injections, lots of PT that does nothing but - well make IT mad. Pain killers seem to knock it down but to a tollerable stage. All of the docs say it is past your yoga, stretching, accupuncture related stuff. I think what I am still trying to get past is like you said - once you are cut you are cut and you can't go back...so still listening to everybody...Chef G
  • My back pain was from 3 discs that were torn. I waited for 2 1/2 years to find out what was casuing my pain. If you have a torn disc, you dont want to let it go forever as the disc fluid is highly damaging to nerves. I fear permanent nerve damage becasue of the time factor. Just FYI.
  • I'm only 5 weeks post op (L5, S1 fusion - cage and screws) and I'm doing great so far. So, I don't know how I'm going to do years from now, but I know I made the right choice to have surgery. I had right leg pain, numb toes and walked with a limp for awhile. I had stabbing pain in my right hip area extending down my leg when I would get up from a chair and take the first few steps. This is almost history. I only have an occasional nerve, leg sensation and I am told that this could last a couple of months but should go away. I was back to work full time 18 days later after my surgery (desk job).

    I didn't injure my back and only my L5 disc was degenerated (severely). The degenerated disc didn't cause back pain, only nerve pain...so that is kind of weird. All of my other discs are normal.

    I had been through back surgery before (laminectomy) a few months before, so I knew what to expect the second time and I wasn't that worried about getting a fusion. About 2 days before my fusion I was kind of getting scared and kept having second thoughts, but I'm glad it's over and I'm glad I didn't put it off.

    I still hang out here because it is great for emotional support....the recovery can be long and there will be ups and downs.
  • Everything written above I agree with. Just seek more than one opinion. When I went ahead with my surgeries, I was tired of all the conservative treatments and being in horrible pain 24/7. My pain doctors and I all came to the conclusion that surgery was my last hope because I started to have nerve damage.

    I think you'll know when you need the surgery, but don't wait too long if you are having signs of nerve damage.
  • I am s/p an L5-S1 ALIF; and I was told that I could continue all my same activities post-op that I did pre-op. That just hasn't been true. I was a physician that worked 80+ hr weeks, competitive athlete, very independent kind of person, and hoped for motherhood. Well, so far, one year out, things haven't gone so well. I can barely work 4-5 hours on my feet before the pain becomes unbearable. My sport - can't even walk long distances let alone train, and most personal relationships have been ruined by not being able to travel, socialize in evenings because of pain or meds. Can't even sit through a church service.

    Would I do it over again? Yes, I would. I did conservative therapy for over 2 years including PT, chiro, accupuncture, TENS, injections of every type before the surgery, and pre-op the pain was controlling my life. I was told I had an 85% chance of getting better w/surgery. I'm in the 15% now, but still looking for more answers and hope.

    At least your doctor was honest in telling you that you would be replacing one pain with another. I know plenty of success stories of people pain free after surgery, but I just don't know the percents honestly. On one hand, at the location of L5-S1, a fusion in that location theoretically causes the least amount of lost motion and one of the higher success rates, although there is always a risk of adjacent disk disease. You are smart for realizing back surgery is not a panacea, but for most of us, "you know" when the surgery is a must for you. Good luck in your decision.
  • SO you are the second doc I have "talked to" - you had the surgery. The other doc - was a friend - I am a career change chef - I was exec assistant to the dean of a med school and one of our surgeons opted NOT to do the surgery. He was by no means an older doc either and he stopped doing medicine...with you now that gives me a little change of opinion...I appreciate you -
  • Chef,

    I am with you - I herniated my L5 (severly) and have a grade 1 slippage of l5 onto s1. Have lots of leg pain and back stiffness now - I have been working through this since Sept 08. I walk about 3-5 miles a day plus use an inverstion table as well as take mobic, neurontin, tramadol, and sometimes valium and I would consider myself functional. I have always been a very very active guy so this whole slow down thing is frustrating. I consulted an ortho spine surgeon and neuro surgeon - both offered me a spinal fusion - ortho would do a ALIF (through the front) and the neuro a PLIF (through the back). Both think I would benefit and would call the surgery a success if it reduced my pain by 50%. Both said this is elective and truth be told I am scared to make the move and have surgery. Most discussion threads seem to indicate post surgery folks (even some after a year) taking some really powerful medications. At this point I plan to wait it out a little longer. You might want to consider trying the inversion table it helps my leg pain and so does the neurontin. Keep us posted and take one day at time. A PA in my ortho spine clinic told me that some days will be good, some days will be bad and some days will be really bad - boy was he right. All the best, mike
  • Was your surgery minimally invasive? PLIF stands for?
    I'm new at this. I have a spondylolisthesis at L5, S1 at 50-75%. I am trying to find a spinal surgeon who I feel has the experience to do a good job in Florida....Raven
  • Hey Jake,

    I realize no one has a crystal ball, but I guess one of the main questions I would be trying to find the answer to is: Is there likely to be more nerve damage if you wait to have the surgery?

    I had a grade III slip of the L5 over S1 and the disc inbetween was completed shredded and gone (all likely due to a diving accident I had 20 years ago which then worsened gradually over time). I had spinal fusion done April 1/08. I am afraid that I am now left with permanent nerve damage and wish my gp wouldn't have poo poo'd my back pain for so many years. I was bedridden and on mega doses of morphine for six months prior to surgery.

    Am I glad I had the surgery? Well, I was at a point where I didn't have much choice. Could hardly walk or sit, couldn't drive, couldn't wear shoes because my ankle would swell and it was too painful to put shoes on. I am glad to say that my mechanical movement is near to perfect now. I have been left with a sore back, some days worse than others and I still have nerve pain usually from the knee down. I am just wondering if the outcome would have been better if it would have been done sooner....

    You may want to ask that question, will waiting cause more damage in the long run.

    Good luck with your decision. Take care, Laurie
  • If you wait too long you may end up with permanent nerve damage, once you have permanent damage you can't go back! I am not pain free but I have walked with out a cane since 2 level lumbar fusion. This surgery gave me most of my mobility back. I would definitely do it again.
    Faith M
  • Its such a personal decision to have back surgery. When I was finally properly diagnosed, I did not want anything to do with surgery due to recovery time and the fact there are no guarantees. There also could be for some more surgery later on down the road above, esp in my case.
    I had done all the consertative treatments prior to surgery. I was scared to death, but as I saw it, it couldnt get much worse. My 360 (both anterior and posterior) 3 level fusion was the end of last Sept. I have to say its a very slow process to heal, but my pre- surgery pain is gone.
    I wish you luck with your decision. It was my first surgery ever and being a nurse I was used to taking care of people, not the other way around. All n all Im glad I had it. It takes the patience of Job when healing...Im not back to work yet, and hopefully my NS will release me at my next visit.
    If you decide to have surgery make sure you get a couple of opinions, always a must. There is also some very good check list of things to do before and things to have at home on the forum.
    Good luck, and remember its one day at a time! Take care whatever your decision might be.
Sign In or Register to comment.