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New here and Surgery upcoming

remoc8116rremoc8116 Posts: 10
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:35 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello all, My name is Paul, Back in May of 2007 while at work(I am a Police Officer) I injured myself, I blew out L4/5 and had a positive discogram at L5/S1. My Neurosurgeon is going to do the following bilateral laminectomy facetectomy at L4/L5 L5/S1 and a Interbody T/Lif at L4/5 L5/S1 levels, Pedicle screws and rods L4 thru S1 levels. Lateral mass Fusion and BMP augmentation.

I am 38 years old and hope with the surgery i will not be in the pain that i am constantly in, Low back pain, Shooting down both legs to right behind the knees, Saddle pain is the worst. It has taken 2 years for the Ohio BWC to allow both fusions, They only wanted to let the Surgeon fuse me at L4/L5...This Monday the 24th i have an appointment with the Surgeon, This is the first appt i have had with him in over a year as we were all waiting for the BWC crap, I have a few questions i hope someone can help me with....

1. What can i expect at the appt on Monday, How long out do they usually schedule surgeries?

2. What kind of recovery time am i looking at ?

3. What kind of quality of life can i expect after a double fusion?

4. The surgery is not what scares me it is the thought of going under anesthesia that scares me.....Thanks for any information you can provide me on these questions.....Paul


  • I'm sorry to hear of your injury and the pain you've experienced since. I'm especially sorry to hear you've had to wait so long to try to get a resolution to all of this. As far as answers to your questions, those are things no one but your doctor can really answer, but I'll try to give you a few possibles here.

    1. This will depend on how many surgeries your doctor does a day and how many days a week he operates. It will also depend on the patient back-log (no pun intended). I had to wait a month for my surgery.

    2. I had a three-level fusion (the two you're having plus the one above) and I am nine months out. I'm still recovering. I was able to go back to work full-time at three months, but I have a desk job.

    3. You will have stiffness with a double fusion. You will also have to be very protective of your back, as the discs above your fusion will be more vulnerable because the spine below does not move. If you lift things that are too heavy or twist too far, you increase the risk of rupturing one of the discs above the fusion. I'm relatively pain free now as long as I'm not too active. I'd like to be more active than I am and am working at it. The slllllowwwww pace of it can be frustrating.

    4. While I hope I never need to have surgery again, I must admit that I love general anesthesia. It's about the only decent sleep I ever get!! Of course, I don't like the after affects -- it seems to take months to totally get out of my system. I'm also a lot older than you are and I think it takes longer to clear out as we age.

    All the best to you. I hope they can schedule your surgery soon and that you have a successful procedure and a rapid recovery.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • HI,
    I agree that no one can really answer your questions except your Dr. as for the pain, everyone is different, I have had 4 back surgeries already, some of which I had problems with some not, I still have a lot of pain, but my last surgery was 7-31-09 and it was a fusion that gad a lot of problems, you may go and have your surgery, do a little pt and be fine. It is different with everyone, remember we are here for you if you get discouraged and want to talk. You took the first step by coming here to spine health and we are glad to have you here. Keep us posted as to what and when they will be doing something to help you, we are all praying that everything works out great for you. Good luck and please dont forget to write down all of your concerns so that you may go over them with your Dr at your next visit, let us know what they say. Take care, Linda
  • hi and welcome to the forum! :H we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can. your doctor is the best person to answer your questions!! :-C you can also get some info in the "Back and Neck" surgery forum. :? don't forget to get that second opinion!!! =D> good luck and all the best for a healthy recovery! <:P Jenny :)
  • I had my spine surgery in Ohio at the Cleveland Clinic spine center and my surgeon there was the first and only spine doctor that I found who was not very keen on fusion, all the others wanted to fuse my spine and as you will see from my spine surgery below, he did no fusion on my spine whatsoever.

    I would suggest that you get more than one opinion before committing to fusion as that is, of course, a one way street medically and at 38 years of age you are still very young and such decisions could affect you significantly in the long term in later years. ISTELLER made some good comments in her post and you should take note of those while bearing in mind that evryone has a slightly different reaction and result. However it is clear that fusion can take its toll on parts of the spine adjacent to each fusion and you will indeed be somewhat restricted and will certainly have to take great care if you go down that route.

    FYI Paul, with respect to anesthesia, I was absolutely terrified too. In fact I was more worried about the that than the surgery itself. I actually posted in this forum an article about this subject following my surgery at the clinic entitled, "DO YOU TRUST YOUR ANESTHESIOLOGIST" and the article read as follows...........

    ""We all talk about finding the right doctor or surgeon and we also talk about how to choose the best doctor for ourselves and whether we have faith and trust in him. But, how many of us choose our Anesthesiologist/ or if you are in the UK your Anesthetist. After all when you go into the operating room your whole life is completely in their hands. Most doctors say that they work with very good anesthesiologists, but how many of us ever even see them well in advance of our surgery. Usually you don't know who it is until a person in scrubs and a surgical mask approaches you when you are on a gurney waiting to go into the OR to tell you that they will be putting you to sleep. We should perhaps be asking them if they will also be waking us up. Sadly we know far less about them that we do about our doctors and many of us don't seem to know too much about him either.

    So how do you trust someone that you never really met with your life. It is an anomaly to me!"" END OF ARTICLE..

    What I ACTUALLY did was insist that I met with the anesthesiologist well before the day of surgery and that is exactly what happened. I was able to tell him of my great fears and he really put my mind at rest by letting me know that he would take very special care, which I am sure that they do with everyone, but at least I had his assurance and his word. In the event my anethesia was brilliant and I have since had anothe anesthetic for a meniscus surgey inthat last couple of weeks with no problem whatsoever. I would suggest that you do the same thing as me. By the way another family member of mine did the same in Parma Hospital with an anesthesiologist there and that was trouble free too.

    Finally the scheduling oF surgeries is a product of the surgeon and the system he works in and the recovery time completely depends on what you have done, how fit you are in general and I presume that being in law enforcement you are reasonably fit and then how quickly your own body recovers from trauma. You have a distinct advantage being quite young and I am sure that helps too.

    I hope that you find this reply useful and i wish you luck with whatever you decide.

    Take care

    John B
  • Thanks Everyone i am feeling a little better about this, My appt with the Neuro is tomorrow so hopefully i will get some questions answered, I am taking a voice recorder in with me so i don't forget anything he say's....I will update tomorrow...Thanks again. Paul
  • Ok here is one you guy's may be able to help me with, Does this affect your sex life in any way???
  • Went to the Surgeon today, He changed my meds from hydrocodone 750 to Lortab 7.5 500 due to the decrease in tylenol. Also said that i will be getting my surgery sometime in the middle of next month and that it would take me about 6 months to heal...
  • It is all coming together for you and that is really great and I am sure that everyone here will wish you all the best with your upcoming surgical procedure as I do.

    I was however wondering whether you asked your doc any questions about the Anesthesiologist in order to allay your principle fears?

    I was also wondering whether you are proposing to go back to exactly the same job and will you be wearing a Sam Browne?. That could be a little difficult for a while specifically when sitting in a cruiser as you may appreciate.

    Take Care & keep in touch

    John B
  • Yep old Sam Brown, I think i will cut back from carrying 2 sets of cuffs in back to 1 set up front, I am gonna take everything off of my duty belt that i can get by without...Asp,1 set cuffs, I will keep my pepper spray-Gun-radio-Key holder...That's if i can even go back but i am gonna bust my tail to get back to my job, I only have 10 years to go for retirement.
  • I sincerely hope that you will be in shape on the timescale that your doc has suggested. I admire your tenacity and with that physiological approach you probably will make it and good luck with it. You sound like a determined guy and more power to you for that too. The worst way out they will I am sure look after your needs by accommodating you until you can get back to where you want to be. I understand completely what you are saying about having 10 years to go to retirement I have seen the situation many times in the job through my own first hand experiences.

    I presume that you are OK with the anesthetic stuff now.

    Keep in touch and take care.

    John B
  • Yes John, I am a member of ar15.com and one of the guy's over there is a Anes doc and he said that extra precautions are taken with asthmatics and that anesthesia is actually safer than driving to work. I guess there is no use getting all worked up about it as i will not know till it's over..LOL
  • I was really concerned, but having been assured up front, it was not a problem at all.

    You will need to tell your doc and your anesthesiologist all your fears in respect of your own medical condition and they will take great care of you. My guess is that just like me, you will wonder what you were ever worried about after the event!. You will be just fine, I am absolutely sure.

    Take care

    John B
  • The short answer, Paul, is no. In fact, the absence of pain makes it better. Now, as you'll notice, I'm a lot older than you are, but still "active." I'll bet you'll do fine.
  • I had a TLIF over a year ago on L4-5 and L5-S1 because I suffered a recurrent herniation and instability from my previous decompression surgery. I also have severe DDD on those discs. I didn't come out of it like I hoped and felt worse than before the fusion. I don't want to scare you or anything like that. My surgeon said I'd get better, stay the same, or get worse. When it comes to spine surgery, there is no guarantee that you'll be pain free. I really hope that you will recover completely from your surgery and get back to your normal life. It will take a long time to heal and a whole lot of determination too. The more walking you can do post op, the better you should be. Don't rush to get off your pain meds because it can hinder the healing process. You'll know when you're ready. Take baby steps at the beginning- don't push yourself too hard. You will need a lot of help the first few weeks and it's best to make all your arrangements before your surgery. Stock up on food and snacks. Buy extra pillows, a grabber, shower seat, laxatives, body powder (you might sweat a lot), a personal fan, comfy clothes, etc. There is an extensive list of post op needs under "Post Op Must Haves" thread on SH. You might be allowed to drive short distances as early as 2 weeks. What gets to people a lot is boredom from being laid up. Find ways to entertain yourself with perhaps an ipod, books, movies, games, etc.

    Well, that's all I have for you and I wish you the very best with your fusion. Take care
  • Hi Paul,

    I had a S1-L4 fusion just over a year ago.

    Before the fusion every 'wrong' move hurt like the devil and sometimes I lost bladder control (caudal equina syndrome - nasty stuff that people don't really like to talk about).

    Honestly the thought of being stiffer (fused and not able to bend) sounded great to me - this was because every move hurt. Fused and not able to move was miles better than not fused with excruciating pain on movement.

    As for anesthesia - do make sure you tell them again and again - particularly when you talk with your anesthesiologist right before you go in for surgery. I find they are incredibly helpful, they just have to know. Don't trust anyone but yourself to directly communicate with the anesthesiologist. Don't leave it to a nurse to get the message to them. I've been told that I need to consider myself allergic to anesthesia, so I hear you on the worries.

    Healing - I'm glad your dr. says 6 months, but honestly, plan on longer. You can consider going back at 6 months, but I stronly suggest light duty. You won't be running down any crooks and taking them down at 6 months. Even a year out gets iffy - it all depends on how your fusion takes.

    Once you are fused you will STILL have to protect your back. The surrounding discs have more pressure on them from the fusion.

    I started to fuse early, but still was not released from my restrictions for a year.

    Hopefully your dr. uses 'peek cages' they are flexible plastic 'tubes' that have the BMP & crushed bone in them. The BMP promotes fusion and the cages still give you some flexability - this slight bendability is what you need to protect your surrounding discs.

    I did have problems with the BMP that was put in the spinal canal and had to have it removed in a second surgery less than 48 hours after my first surgery. Watch for new numbness post op. Mine was a creeping area of numbness that I didn't even notice until about 24 hours post op.

    One last thing (sorry so long a post) as mentioned above - walking is the best cure. It gets oxygen flowing to the injured areas. Motion is the Lotion. BUT, NO bending, lifting or twisting. Sitting is EVIL - it's murder on your back. I still get severe backaches if I sit too long.

    Best of luck -

    p.s. you probably wont need EVERYTHING on the Post-Op Needs list (it's terribly extensive)- but it's great to get you thinking about what you will need and in getting you prepared.
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