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3 level fusion

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:30 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hoping someone could give me some input on a 3 level fusion of the lumbar spine, L3-L4, L4-L5, L5-S1. I am just 35 years old,and have been dealing with all this for 5 or six years. I went through a microdiscectomy of my L3-L4 and L5-S1 back in December of 06. Both of the discs have reherniated. Constant low back pain and shooting pain down both legs. In the past it was just my right leg that was affected, now both are in pain. just talked to my surgeon yesterday. He says its up to me to decide when ive had enough of the suffering, and go through the 3 level fusion process. Wanted to try some artificial disc implants, but my insurance still considers it experimental and wont cover it.
If anybody that has gone through this procedure and would be willing to share there experience with me, I would be so gratefull. Doc says it could take around a year to recover from this op. Im so scared of making the decision to do this procedure. Ive been told it has a low success rate, wich scares me to death. Im to young to be thinking of this!!! Thanks for any info I may recieve from this post.

Thanks for listening


  • I had a PLIF from L2-L5 (3 level fusion) with interbody fusion at L4-l5 (cage/spacer from the disc being removed), and titanium hardware.

    I am just over 3 months postop and I am off all restrictions, back to work which requires lifting. I am being very careful of course.

    I can say it relieved my sciaitca instantly, but not all have that happen.

    I was in a great deal of pain the first couple of days after surgery, but after the first week it wasnt so bad and after two weeks I was pretty much off all pain meds (other then the occasional one).

    I was fused or fusing at 6 weeks, not sure which it was. THere was bone growth all along but not as dark as theother bone, I never asked my surgeon what the difference was, but I guess by 3 months it was good enough to be off restrictions.

    Some do very well with fusions/spine surgery in general some don't. I had the surgery due to my L4-L5 disc being a huge blob pushing up against my spinal nerves, causing the worse pain I've ever suffered. L2-L4 were herniated/buldging and would had eventually required surgery so we fixed it all at once.

    Heres the question I aksed myself before having surgery:

    Can I live my life in my current condition in a way that is acceptable to myself? I answered No and had the surgery.

  • I am now (at almost six months out) glad I had the surgery, but I must tell you it's a long slow crawl out of hell afterwards. You will, most likely, end up feeling like you've been nailed to a board. There will be stiffness that will not go away, simply due to the fact that you ARE basically nailed in place. At any rate, but stiffness is preferable to the constant jolts of pain for me and I'm feeling better and stronger every day. As your doc said, you'll have to decide when you've had enough.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Hello Clayton, and welcome to Spine Health! I had the exact surgery you had a year ago yesterday, and mine went relatively easily. But you cannot base your expectations on others experiences, because all of us are different. I had no back pain before the surgery, other than the stiffness in the morning, or when I got up from a sitting position, but I thought that was age related. What bothered me most was the shooting sciatica like pain and numbness of my toes and leg. I cpuld not stand more than a few minutes. This all went away after the surgery, even the morning stiffness is gone. The only thing I noticed, that I get tired sooner than before, however, I recover after a few minutes rest. Personally, I am happy I had my surgery and consider it a success. But you have to make that decision based on what your surgeon says would happen with surgery or without. It is a serious decision, so take your time.

    Wishing you the best,

  • Thank you, for your info. I think Im just not ready for all that yet. Ill keep on keepin on for the time being. How long Ill keep going, Ill let ya know. LOL. Thank you for the Input on this, I truly do appreciate it. Ill post if I decide to do this. Otherwise im just gonna keep on reading all the info I can on this site. Truly a great info site.
  • I had a 4 level lumbar fusion (L2-L3, L3-L4, L4-L5 and L5 to S1 in September of 2002. It was horrible for about a month and I walked and walked and walked even though the pain was severe. Around a month after I started to feel tiny bit better bit by bit. It took a full 6 months before I could walk without pain. Now going on 7 years later as long as I do not twist or stay in one position (either standing or sitting) for more than around 10 min at a time I feel pretty good. You are never going to be perfect and don't expect it. The pain does get better with time after the surgery but you need to realize you will always have pain and limitations. I have never regretted having the surgery. I feel about 200% better than before I had it.

    Good luck.
  • This is good to hear from others about their back surgeries. I am heading into the OR for fusion of L4-L5 L5-S1 and am very scared. These others who are successes give me hope. Right now I am in such horrific pain and cannot stand waiting! My surgery is scheduled for July 13. I am on an ASAP list too. Thanks everyone! If any one else has any stories about their experience with their fusions I would be happy to read them. Thanks everyone!!
  • Hi Clayton,
    I just added a post to the forum on my 1 yr result from the same surgery.

    What you need to look at is your quality of life. How much are your symptoms/pain restriciing your life?
    Also I would recommend that you try every other avenue before going down the surgical route as it is a long road. You have probably already done this but it is worth mentioning.

    Lastly- you will know when the time is right and what KIN said is true, we are all very differnt so can only offer you our own unique experiences.
    Personally- I am glad I had it.

  • Clayton - after a long period of stiffness, when I thought I would feel like I'd been nailed to a board for the rest of my life, my therapist decided to try a new technique on me. I'm not advocating this for everyone. As a matter of fact, it's pretty painful, but sort of hurts so good if you know what I mean. It's called Graston Technique. You can Google it and find some videos on it. Basically, it uses a massage cream and some stainless steel tools to loosen all the knots we get in our muscles from holding ourselves rigid to avoid the pain response. I cannot tell you what a difference this has made in my ability to move freely. If you are in a substantial amount of pain (and I do believe you must be, having been where you are now), I would recommend doing the surgery, enduring the painful recovery for a few months, and getting yourself in with a good therapist. I'm optimistic about the rest of my life now instead of feeling doomed to be rigid for the rest of my days.

    I did have some special kinds of pain right after surgery. The nerve damage you are doing to your legs now might cause the same in you. I was given Lyrica to control leg spasms and that helped alot -- I only needed it for about a month. Do you experience numbness in your legs along with the pain? If so, I'd recommend you do something before you nerve damage is permanent. I'm no doctor, but I do know I have some lasting damage and I didn't wait very long to try and stop the pain.

    All the best,
    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Hi
    I had a 2 level fusion, L3-5, almost 6 wks ago. I must say, it was the best decision I have ever made. It took me a while to decide to have the surgery, but after PT and a few injections that didn't last, I had to do something. My pain in my butt and numbness in my leg and foot was keeping me from living my normal life. Also, work was getting impossible. I work in a cardiac cath lab and have to wear a lead apron and stand all day. It was extremely painful.

    I am now happily walking 2 or more miles a day, without pain! It is so great! I had given up an active life before surgery, but I am slowly getting it back. I am still off work, and will be for another month or 2, but I am so glad I had the surgery. The only thing I take for pain now is Tylenol.

    I hope this helps. I was very apprehensive before surgery, too.

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