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Fusion Surgery

TimboTTimbo Posts: 10
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:30 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
My neurosurgeon and pain mgmt doctor are recommending that I have fusion surgery asap. I was diagnosed with spondylolisthesis and severe DDD at L5-S1 and S2. I have tried all the conservative approaches (therapy, injections, meds, etc.) and the only thing that really helps is the meds. I would like to try and wait and build up my leave at work so I do not have to go on short or long term disability, but my docs are saying that I can do this but they would really like for me to get the surgery done. My question is, is it safe for me to wait or should I just get it done with and put up with all of the headaches of having to deal with disability?



  • how long has it been since you injured your back?? and how are you coping with the pain at the moment?? if the pain is really bad my question would be why are you waiting?? I understand what you have said about time off work, but rather than disability could you use your current leave, some sick time or take some unpaid leave?? There must be a reason why the surgeons are recommending surgery ASAP. Hope this helps a little & you make a decission you are eventually happy with, surgery is not always the easy option but given my time again I wouldn't have done anything differently. Ian
  • I started having problems about 7 years ago. The pain would last a few months, then go away with rest and meds. My current situation started about a year ago. No matter what I have tried, the pain just wont go away. I cope with the pain now by taking oxycodone and zanaflex. It works most of the time. I am trying to wait because when I do get it done, I dont want to have to worry about going on short or long term disability. I would like to be able to just rely on my sick leave. If things stay the same as they are now, I think I can deal with the pain. I just want to know if it is safe to wait as long as nothing changes in my condition. Thanks for the reply!
  • RangerRRanger on da rangePosts: 805
    Hey Tim,
    Your neurosurgeon may find you at risk for paralysis and/or incontinence if
    you put off the surgery too long, that was my situation a few years ago. Just
    an innocent slip or fall could bring catastrophic results so you may want to
    ask a few more questions. If you are having any tingling or numbness that
    would also be a good reason to move forward with the surgery to avoid
    permanent nerve damage.
    Good luck to you and keep us posted with your results.
  • You are right, my doc gave me those reasons for getting the surgery done, but he also said that the final decision was mine. So, I took that as maybe I could wait?

  • You could possibly wait as you say. My question to you would then be, from saying yes lets go for it, how long would it be until you actually got the surgery?? My reason for asking is that I am UK based and had no control over the timescales. I had to wait almost 18 months from the surgeon saying I needed the surgery to actually getting it!! If you can get it done ASAP from saying yes this might give you a bit of breathing space, but as Ranger has rightly pointed out there are other potential risks involved if you wait, likewise a "stupid moment" whist out having fun with mates or an accident that isn't your fault could turn this whole thing on its head & you could lose all control over the situation. These are merely my thoughts and I only put them forward as things for you to chew over. Ian
  • Thanks for the thoughts. You and Ranger brought up some good questions that I will pose to my doc next time I talk to him. On a side note, I noticed that you have had alot of procedures done, and was wondering what your experience is with fusion surgery? Also, I went to my pain mgmt doc yesterday and they want me to try a drug called topamax. It is supposed to increase the effects of the pain meds. Has anyone had any experience with this? Sorry for all the questions, but its nice to have a place where people understand what I am going through.....................
  • never fear about asking questions! got to shoot out for a while - I'm working but will come back to you in a bit.
  • Took me a bit longer than anticipated but I'm back. I've never heard about the drug Topamax but there are huge variences between the names in the USA & the UK, I'm sure some one else will come along later that might be able to shed some light on that one.
    I have never regretted having spinal surgery, I didn't follow the advice given to me about taking things easy for quite some time & I came back to work at around the 6-7 week mark and after a three level fusion (9 3/4hrs of surgery) this turned out to be too soon but I needed to be overseeing my business again! I had a six month period of being totaly pain free until a my mothers friend had a fall down the stairs at my house, whilst they were both staying with me & I tried to pick her up & re-injured my back & it has been down hill from there! There are potential draw backs to any type of spinal surgery, which no doubt your surgeon has pointed out, it not working at all, limited benefit from it, things can go wrong and paralysis is one of them, I was advised this was less than a 1% chance of this though. I was unlucky in that they nicked the nerves in my left foot whilst in there playing about and this has now left me with permanent foot drop & I wear a leg brace (lightweight carbon fibre which few people would even notice under suit trousers). Even when a nerve is nicked there is a good chance that within a year that it will re-grow. For every person that has a bad experience or for whom surgery doesn't work, that are as many if not more for whom its does work and they can / have resumed a normal pain free life. Feel free to PM me at anytime, hopefully a few other people will also leave you so replies. Ian
  • There are plenty of things to worry about with a fusion, but I would put paralysis at the bottom of the list when you're talking LUMBAR fusion. The spinal cord stops at about the L1, waist level. Above that are all the nerves that control most of the bodily functions like breathing, etc. and the use of arms and legs. Spinal nerves below this level form the cauda equina (horse's tail). The lumbar nerves (L2-L5) control some of the movement of the hips, legs and feet, and the lower down the injury, the more control over movement there is. It would take quite a drastic circumstance to result in major injury when operating on one or two disks at the end of the spinal column.

    The L5 nerve allows the toe to wiggle and the S1 nerve pulls the foot down. The Sacral nerves below this level (S3,4 and 5) supply the bladder. bowel and sex organs and the anal and other pelvic muscles.

    This is probably more info than you want to know, but I think it helps to relieve anxiety when you know you won't wake up paralyzed and unable to move any part of your body.

    Regarding the issue of whether to proceed or wait: could you describe your nerve pain? Do you always have it, or is it relieved by some change in position? For example, prior to my fusion, I could not stand for more than about a minute at the end. I had a stool in my kitchen so I could plop down. Sitting for just another minute or two would then allow me to stand to cook a little more until I couldn't stand the pain any longer, and I would sit again. It did take a long time to get a meal together, but it was the only way I could do it. Does anything relieve your pain?

    My test was always whether I could get up on tip toe and "walk on my heal," however badly -- could I physically do it? If not, I was going to have surgery. I never got to that point.

    Then the second question was could I stand and/or deal with the pain? And the third question was how this was impacting my "quality of living." These two questions are very subjective and only YOU know the answer. Barring a physical emergency, they are the questions you have to answer. I waited almost 4 years before having fusion. Now that I've been through it, I wish I had done it sooner.

    I am happy to answer any questions you have about fusion.

    xx Gwennie
  • The pain that I have is pretty much constant. It is on my lower left side and the it shoots down my leg into a couple of my toes. I have had a couple of injections, they didnt work at all and now sometimes I have pain in both hips and some pain on the right side of my lower back going down my leg. I get relief from laying down flat on my back or while my pain meds are in effect, but the pain never fully goes away. Thanks for all the info, it really helps to know someone out there is/has gone through this and can understand.

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