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Back Surgery 2-3 levels vs interbody fusion

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:31 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi everyone:

I feel like my life is over at 44yrs. My back is killing me.

Initially I had low back pain associated with L4 that would constantly go out of place - Chiropractors put it back in OFTEN. For about 2 years I saw and did everything for back pain then decided upon a microdiscectomy for L4-L5. This gave me relief for a WEEK and I got nerve damage in my right upper extremity - healed in over 2 years. (Never go to that surgeon again!!! - I'll report him on another site) Really, it was the anesthesia and the OR nurses fault for improper positioning.

Then after another 6 years of pain and tons of alternative treatments life was a D- for me. I was ready to exit it! I found a surgeon who would consider surgery for the three bad levels: L3-L4, L4-L5 L5-S1. For this surgery #2 He decided to put the Dynesys system in at the worst level L4-L5 and fuse at L3-L4. (Dynesys recommends fusion at the levels both above and below the device - I suppose I listened to my 'cowboy' surgeon) This was ok for a year -I still needed pain meds up to 15 mg oxycodone/day, muscle relaxants, back brace offered relief. My life was brought up to a C- like the surgeon said - he never acted like a hero or like he was going to remove my pain. An accidental pregnancy and supportive boyfriend helped me get off most of the meds. I had a miscarriage which was sort of a blessing in disguise because I ended up on 1/2 vicodin (500mg) in the morning and at night and that was it!!! So happy!! However, after some vigorous activity a pedicale screw was loosened and I was like my surgeon said, "In the same pickle you were in before." I was in so much pain - I thought 'pickle'!!! man he makes it sound so light hearted! I insisted he do something to help me so that I could get back to where I was on low dose or on nothing!

Surgery #3 I had posterior interbody fusion at L3-L4 and L4-L5 leaving the Dynesys system in to do it's work, but with stiffed suspension. The surgeon insisted that it would stiffen up the area and that is what I needed. Well, at first I felt awesome - just normal surgical site pain for a few days. Then I fell jarring my whole right side because I wasn't used to the weakness/nerve damage in my right quadricipes muscle. After that it didn't feel normal or good inside - I was no longer enjoying just the surgical pain and felt I screwed something up. Doc. wanted to wait it out to see about some healing first. It's been 6 months & I am in such incredible pain now he's ready for the next one and so am I.

So, after these 6 horrific months of pain and multiple tests later we are at the precipice of surgery #4. He wants to try an anterior interbody fusion and place it at L5-S1 where my L5 disc is hanging out causing all of the nerve pain, sciatica, muscle pain and of course back pain. Initially, he suggested hardware at L5-S1 but it scared me, so he suggested a two part - do the interbody first and if it works continue on with the metal. I am not sure if the Dynesys being in there is the problem and or if any other implantation will be the answer. So, with this in mind he suggested the interbody fusion check on me the next day after the surgery. If that doesn't work put that metal in. I am wondering if I should just go for it and have him do instrumentation at say two levels. I'm an R.N. and live in this body and he does listen to me.

Also, this time I am going to get two more opinions.

Anyway, I hope that anyone can give me their personal opinions. I cannot forgo this surgery because otherwise I do not want to live in all of this pain. I have no life.

So to sum it up I have L3-L4, L4-L5 L5-S1 - should I get the full fusion? I have read that interbody fusions only last 6-7 years is this really true???

Sorry if I am all over the place but it's hard to sum up the whole history with all of this pain.

I look forward to some suggestions, stories, answers or whatever.

Thank you


  • I had a 3 level/360 fusion/L2 thru L5 on Nov. of 07. I had failed back surgery syndrome diagnosed about 8 months post-fusion and still to this day I have not fuse. Saying all that I want to remind you that not everyone's story is like mine. There are plenty of people that have succesful multi-level fusions and go on recovering and moving on with their lives, but you probably won't find them here in this forum since most of them are living nice productives lives and working; unlike us.

    Don't know who told you that fusions are short-term (6/8 years). That instrumentation is there for you to keep unless problems arise with the instrumentation and then they have to remove it. The one thing about fusions is that you run a chance of having the levels above and below your fusion collapse with time. That has happened to me already. My L1 collapsed, but since L1 really does not play a huge roll in movement, my Doctor's say not to even worry about it. Is it painful? yes, Do I want to have surgery on that 1 level? NO
    I hope this answers some of your questions and I hope that others will chime in and help you out. Good luck,
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