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Scheduled for S1L5 surgery, looking for encouraging feedback

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:35 AM in Lower Back Pain
I am a 34 year old male. I've have a injured lower back - it happened in 7th grade. Doctors didn't know what it was, so I ended up building up strong core muscles and putting on a back brace and getting back in to sports in a couple of years. My back was fine for a long time after that - i think mostly due to maintaining strong core muscles for support. The last few years my back has been hurting more and more. I went to a chiropractor a couple of years ago after throwing out my midback, and his X-rays revealed spondylolisthesis, about 50% slippage. An MRI earlier this year showed that the cavity where my sciatic nerve is as being pretty much crushed by the spondy. I have all healthy discs besides the S1L5, and I'm scheduling L1S1 fusion surgery this winter some time so i can get on with being active and living a full life.

anyway, you search the net and find horror stories about back surgeries, but i suspect that most people logging on are those who have had bad experiences. Is there any positive feedback out there for this surgery? and what should I expect my recovery to be like? how long should I take off work (I'm a construction manager).

any positive but realistic feedback would be appreciated.




  • Dave-

    I am considering the same surgery myself for horrible pain I am experiencing. I havent come to the surgery decision yet but I truly wish you success in your surgery and a very speedy recovery!!!!
  • Dave
    I have made the decision to have fusion. L45/S1 on September 25th. I read about the horror stories as well. I have decided that since I feel comfortable with my decision, that my outcome will be fantastic. At least that is my attitude and attitude is 80% of the result. What you think.
    good luck with your surgery

  • Hi, Here is a link to a thread that is on the same topic. I see the responses as honest AND positive. I'm in a similar position as yourself except I just had my fusion 7 weeks ago, I'll be off total of 12 weeks. Anyway, check out the link.
    Good luck, hope you are pain free soon. . .
  • I had my fusion Jan. 29th 2009,I had spondylolisthesis I have a dowel going thru my S1 into my L5, 4 screws and 2 rods. At first I thought I had made a terrible mistake having done the surgery. But as the weeks past, I did start feeling better. It is a long recovery, and alot of pain. I was off work til April, then light duty for 90 days. I do feel so much better.
    My doctor 2 weeks ago said that it looks like I have fused. I hope that he is right. I will have another cat scan in 3 months to make sure.
    My doctor has me taking calcium supplements with vitamin D. He said that the vitamin D helps the bone growth.
    I was scheduled for a 360 degree fusion, that was suppose to be 2 to 3 hours. But, once he got all the mri and cat scan results there was 2 extra bones in my tailbone. Then once he was in there there were 2 fractures that the mri or the cat scan did not pick up. Needless to say it was a 10 hour surgery. He placed bone fragments along the area that was to be fused. So he did not use the BMP.
    I am sorry that I don't know all the technical terms.
    In the end I am glad that I did the surgery. I do feel alot better. I worry when and if another one will go. I try to be carefull and watch how I bend,or what I pickup. I am 40 years old, mother of 4 boys, and I don't want to go thru this again.
    I wish you the best of luck.
  • I trust you are seeing a fellowship-trained spinal specialist and have received more than one opinion. It is helpful to get several opinions as there are some new techniques pertaining to surgery at L5-S1 and not all surgeons are trained or experienced in them. It sounds like your problems are fairly clear-cut, so there probably won't be a discrepancy in what is causing the pain. But different doctors might offer you a choice of methods or procedures.

    Some fusions require a slightly longer recovery period than others...but, generally speaking, it is a long recovery. Most people are off work for about three months, and some, more like six months. Regardless, your fusion will not be strong and stable for about a year, even though the fusion process should begin very early in the process.

    I know a number of athletic people that have had lumbar fusion and have been able to resume their activities.

    My best advice would be to be very careful in selecting your surgeon. You only have one shot at getting this right.

    Good luck.

  • i am one of the horror stories so all i will do is wish you good luck!
  • Hm, I am going to offer what I wish someone had said to me before I had my surgery 19 months ago....so here it is.....

    If this is something you can put off....do so. I have degerative disc disease...I am 41. It began when I was 19...my L5-S1 level. I put off surgery for a long time as my discs began to break down one after another....until I was almost 40 and there was no more waiting......when it had become degenerative scoliosis....and after having to have neck surgery in 03, fusion c-5/6 c-6/7.....

    Two surgeries to fuse and stabilize my back, which had, in 15 months gone from no curve to 22 degrees...I was told that it was a spiral curve as well and in 6 months I'd likely be in a wheel chair and there would be nothing that could be done....now I am told that there was probably a different approach that could have been taken, but I took the word of a highly respected Neurosurgeon and the second opinion of his fellowship director....I nearly died.

    First surgery entry from my side, caged from L2 to S1, 6 hours instead of 3, woke up with absolutely no feeling in my right foot....complained to doctor who blew me off....said he did nothing wrong and would be HAPPY to look around when he opened up my back the in two days.

    Second surgery was 2 days later, surgery was supposed to be 6 hours, it was 12, I nearly bled out, I lost over 40% of my blood volumn, I had 5 transfusions, my husband was in Iraq, they send a red cross message to him informing him that they weren't sure if I'd be alive when he got there.....I suppose I am lucky I am.....because I awoke with a dislocated jaw, pinched nerve in my shoulder, my hip was partially dislocated, I had no potassium, sodium, calcium in my system, my blood levels were all over the place, I was told I had Hepititus C, which I didn't, but not have to be screened for, for God knows how many years because of the strange blood results after the surgery....I ended up with acute pancreatitus, which I still suffer from....I suffer from all kinds of allergies I never had before, yet NO ONE and I mean NO ONE can figure out why....and that numb foot....I have a PERMANENT L5/S1 Nerve Root injury....the pain was unbearable for 6 months, I could not walk, I WAS in a wheel chair at that 6 month point...I had to take an enormous amount of nerve medication that made me so sick....I can not wear closed shoes.....

    And my back.... I have 2 18" harrington rods and a 20" scar down my spine, which is straight, but 19 months post op, I still have pain, I still can't walk long distance, do any heavy lifting...I get weak after a couple hours....my upper back hurts too now above my rods, the pain down my right leg from the injury is often unbearable and pain medication does nothing to help....forget sleep....and all because some Neurosurgeon said I had to have this surgery.....Maybe I didn't, maybe I did, but I wish I had bothered to listen to someone else's story, because I would take a WHEELCHAIR THE REST OF MY LIFE OVER THIS.....there are days when I think I'd rather die....then get up and try to face another day of pain, and looking at myself in the mirror....

    See I used to weigh 145....before my surgery....I was a very attractive woman....now I have gained 25 pounds, I can't lose the weight, I try to do as much as I can.....but I hurt all the time...I don't complain to my husband, between my allergies and my back pain.....he's just about had his fill...I know I would if it were me......

    So just listen....and think....if you could manage to find another way....any other way besides having a doctor CUT YOU OPEN mess around WITH THE NERVES in your back.....DO IT! I WISH I HAD!!!!

    Horror story does not begin to come close to what I have gone through or what I have to live with the rest of my days.....

    God Bless each of you and may he watch over you during your days of pain and healing....

  • I had L5 S1 fusion disc surgery june 30 they put in 2 cages & 8 screws
    my pain has been bad at times but manageable I am walking 45 minutes a
    day and started working ;prt time 2 weeks ago
    my back pain is better in areas right away after surgery but I do feel the pain
    where the cages & screws were put in

    I also had L3 @ L4 fusion surgery done 11 years ago when i fell off a ladder
    I was up and going after 2 months with that surgery also I hope mine will
    continue to get bettr but I know everyone is different
  • ....if you expect more good news than bad news. This forum is mostly comprised of people with failed surgeries. Most of the ones with successful surgeries don't spend all their time on here. They move on with their life.

    I'm having L5-S1 fusion in a month or so. Whenever we get the date worked out. I'm hoping to have very little to post about it. I've done everything short of surgery. At some point you have to decide whether you have had enough of simply breathing vs living. Make your decision and move on.

    Good luck with it.
  • Dave,
    I had the same surgery in 2007.The first thing I did was to tell people not to tell me their back stories.They are not all bad.I was fortunate to have a very good neurosurgeon-since he had operated on me 2 times before. I had complete trust in him.Getting a second opinion is necessary as successful surgery starts with the right diagnosis.You are young,sound health conscience and seem to be doing your homework.It was worth the risk for me since I was not getting younger and wanted to make my back as strong as I could.Having a disc herniation is painful.The recovery is not easy-it takes a year most of the time for a good fusion.The pain in my leg and foot is gone and I would do it again.Not something I would choose-but life happens.I have had to be "back"conscious and still haven't fiqured out where my line is between doing too much-or not enough.As with most medical issues-I feel it is best to stay off the internet-unless you or on a site done by Nuerosurgeons.There is such a thing as too much information-especially since most of it is not fact based.This site has helped me a great deal,and I choose to converse with others who learn to accept themselves the way they are. It is liked a wrecked car-you can fix it but it will never be quite like new.But my car runs great most of the time-if I take care of it-put effort into it's maintenance.Good Luck
  • At age 14 I had first surgery for spondy. Mine was at last stage and a hair from severing my spine. I can only explain my experience with out all the proper terminology. Anyways, back then 20+ yrs ago all they could do is fuse it in place. After yrs of wear and tear and a fracture through fusion and having to deal with the pain and no treatment, I had my second surgery just a few years ago. The dr said I had bone on bone, massive spurs, and nerves pinched paper thin. He was able to clean out all the old and was able
    to jack my spine up an inch,aline my spine 50% and place 3 spacers where the disc was completely gone. Added rods and screws on both side of spine and 3 fusions. They used bone off front of hip for fusion. The nerves coming back to life and the hip pain from graph was the worst pain, but with lyrica and a few weeks of hip healing my surgery was a success. I have other problems, such as sciatic pain, but ESI was great relief for that,time for another now.Also have upper back and neck problems and pain.
    But where my lower back surgery is located, that is the only part of my back that does not hurt. Just the sciatic and tailbone area.It's been almost 4 years and no problems.
    Right after my surgery I was up walking on my own that evening, with a walker of course. And it was well worth it and if I had to do it again, I would in a heart beat.
    After my first one I had the ugliest widest scar and this one he was able to make it alot thinner.
    Now weather changes effect me there a little but overall it has been great.
    Now if I can get everything else on track I might even be doing even better.
    Good luck and you being younger and in good shape is only gonna work for you in recovery. Also I wore a brace for only a month afterwards. And training your self to bend your knees and not bending over will be a big asset in recovery. And walk walk walk!
  • Hi, I had surgery March 16, 09. 2 level posterior fusion with instrumentation, L3-4 and L4-5. I was in extreme pain. I was on 90mg oxycontin 2 x daily, and 4 mg. dilaudid for break thru, and still in pain. I still have pain, but nothing like before. I would do it again tomorrow. It is very painful and a long recovery, but worth it. I am now down to 40 mg oxy, and going down more next month.

    Best of luck to you. Every story isn't bad.
  • Hey Dave,
    I'm now at 9 weeks following my L5-S1 PLIF. I'm taking zero prescribed meds, have an occasional level 1 pain, kinda just a nuisance ache, and I take a couple of Tylenol to fix it. I am very aware that "Everyone is different", but for me, I am absolutely thrilled to be DONE with back pain. I'm certainly so empathetic to the others on this forum who haven't been so lucky, I wish everyone could be "Fixed", but I wanted to check back with you and let you know, for me, I couldn't be any happier. (I'm also aware, for those who are already thinking it, that I may not be "Fixed" forever, but I'm choosing to think I am.
    I took my boat out today for 5 hours on the lake with the wife and kids, the kids and my wife all wake boarded for the first time since before my surgery. I took it easy and went slow over the waves, but it was a great day on the lake.
    The week in the hospital sucked! It hurt soooo bad, but the 18 months before that were no picnic either, so it was worth it. Getting off the meds was horrible for me too, I went the very controversial "Suboxone" route. Many people here have strong opinions about it, I didn't really know that until I spoke up and said, hey, check out this cool drug to help get off meds - whoops, that stirred up so feelings. Anyway, I don't know if I would recommend it, in fact, I probably wouldn't, BUT, for me, I think it worked out fine. I only had one really cruddy day, and that was the third evening after stopping Suboxone, full blown flu like symptoms. I had 3 or 4 sleep deprived nights but from then on, I've been fine.
    Lastly, A positive attitude goes a long way! I know everyone probably starts out with one, and if things aren't going as well as they should, some may get burned out, but if it can be maintained, I think it really helps. Take care and best of luck to you,
    TJ = 39YO Male L5/S1 Fusion 6/24/09
  • I really wish you all the best.

    I have also been advised that I may need a fusion at the L5/S1 level after a "failed" laminectomy.

    Take care. x
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