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Successful L5/S1 Surgery?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
Hello all...

A brief overview and then a question. I have a moderate rupture (L5/S1) that occured - best guess - in March 2008. Since then, maximization of conservative care has taken me through countless visits to a back specialist, two rounds of extenstive PT, three epidurals (which did nothing), two MRI's and two surgical consults at the University of Michigan. September of 2009, and the pain in my legs/groin/feet is worse than ever. It is now causing such extreme shoulder tightness that it hurts to use my right hand...UGH!

At any rate, I have elected to have the standard minimally invasive microsurgical procedure, and am extremely curious to here positive results.



  • Run away! If it were my back, there is NO way in hell I would have surgery this far out unless something REALLY changed. I had 2 l5-s1 microdiscetomies because of rapidly progressive weakness and muscle atrophy with SEVERE RADICULAR (not back)pain, which was only temporarily relieved by surgery. I wish I could have avoided the surgery but made the best decision I could under the circumstances. I wouldn't do it expecting pain to resolve even with an enormous herniation severely compressing the nerve root like I had. It's your decision with the guidance of docs you trust-but you have been warned that surgery is often NOT curative.
    Good luck with whatever you decide!
  • Hi mate, I'm your position also ruptured l5/s1 compressing nerve and a lot of pain. I can't have the surgery until April next year due to a range of circumstances.

    I've read a huge amount of info on it all (was bedridden for months) and had recommendations from over 10 GP's, hospital ER and my specialist/surgeon several times now. I've also had quite a few friends and relatives tell me of others they know that have had the same surgery. ..and I still have no idea whether to go ahead with it or not. I'm very keen to follow how you go with everything either way. Feel free to message me if I might be able to help with anything in terms of living with it, or at all.

  • Hi,

    I had this surgery in Feb this year. I couldnt walk for 4 weeks prior to the surgery and had major muscle atrophy due to the compressed nerve. I was up and walking the day after my surgery and apart from the surgical staples being uncomfortable for a week until they were removed, there was very little actual pain.

    My back still hurts a litle each morning, and my muscles are stil only 50% back to nornal but I have been assured that I should make a 100% recovery but it could take up to 2 years.

    Luckily my private health cover in the UK made it possible to get a top quality surgen who specialised in this procedure, from what I have found out its essential that you get the best surgeon possible to maximise your chances of a successfull op.

    hope this helps.
  • Gotten to the point where I can no longer stand the radicular pain. My legs/feet feel like they are on fire, and I haven't have a good nights sleep in a year and a half. I was referred to a surgeon who is a pioneer in lumbar microsurgery, so I am going into this with a fairly high level of faith in his skills. That said, I do worry I am placing entirely too much emphasis on this being a panacea. Have you all dealt with depression/emotional issues as well? This ordeal has turned me into an absolute mess.
  • While I am nowhere near your situation I understand what you are going through. I can not believe what it would be like to be in that much pain but my pain at times has been quite severe. The two epidurals have helped quite a bit. Have you tried them yet before the surgery?

    I have been going through my own depression of sorts. As I feel like I am letting down my family and company as I am really half the person I used to be. My family can not do the things we used to. Also today the day after the second epi I was feeling ok the last few weeks with the exercises and such so I tried to walk about 7 city blocks round trip being 15 blocks. I could sense afterwards my left leg was starting up again. I wonder now if it is also a loss in strength but my doc says I am still plenty strong in my legs...

    It can be a bit too much...from a guy who could walk for hours to I can not walk for more than 10 minutes at a time and that is as an improvement.

  • I encourage you that it sounds like, to me, that the microdiskectomy is a good option. I had that procedure in 2002 for an L5-S1 herniation with free fragments of disk noted on MRI, and for 4 years I really did well! My further surgeries were needed for other issues that developed in my back, but my pain was SO much better after that surgery.

    Just curious....who are you seeing at the Univ of Michigan? My 3rd surgery was done in June 08 by Dr. Graziano who is an ortho spine surgeon. He did a super job figuring out my issue and surgery went well.

    Good luck and hang in there. Oh, yes...I did struggle with feeling very down about everything going on with my back, not so much in 2002, but from 2006-2008 especially when things were very dark-feeling. I understand.

  • I've had success with cymbalta instead of lyrica for foot pain from the herniated disc at L5-S1. I injured my back last Feb. 2008 and started with trigger point injections, facet joint injections and 5 epidurals. I even got a second opinion Pain Management Dr. You may feel better after a second or third opinion. Have you had a discogram? Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • For the feedback.

    Erika: Dr. Paul Park is who I am working with. The emotional impact of this has been far greater than I would have expected. That part has been a daily struggle.

    Charry: I have tried several medications, and I loathe taking them. Cannot stand the spacey, out of it feeling. I have not had a discogram.

    Will keep you all updated on the process.

    Thanks Again,


  • Hi Blair,

    Making the decision to have spine surgery is a hard one, but, in reading your posts I think you've made the best possible choice. Like you, I had virtually no function, quality of life and in a lot of pain. Since my minimally invasive TLIF I'm slowly coming back to the person I was before. My pain is virtually non existant now and most of the numbness has resolved (only foot involved now, but improving). Depression can easily be a part of the problems associated with back pain - you're in agony most of the time, it's difficult/impossible to move or function normally and then there are the feelings you're failing everyone that relies on you. It appears a # of folks here are using antidepressants to help this issue, (I'm one of them - Wellbutrin works well for me & I don't have that 'disconnected' feeling other meds gave me), perhaps you may want to consider asking your MD's if this could benefit you. A positive attitude IMHO is critical to the healing process. Please keep us posted.
  • No one can decide for you. But, if you're at the end of your rope and there is a very high likelihood that a particular disc is causing specific radicular nerve symptoms, surgery is an option. Just have realistic expectations and realize that you could be starting down a surgery road that's better to avoid if you can. Remember, there is little difference in patient outcome at 1-2 years between surgery and conservative therapy.

    The surgery itself is no big deal-but, any surgery will change your back foerever. I still wouldn't have surgery for similar symptoms for a year-too long for me to believe surgery would help me anymore than conservative care (possible yes but not likely IMO unless symptoms have significantly progressed).

    I did very well after a discectomy 3 years ago- very active again by 6 weeks after surgery but have had 2 later discectomies which only temporarily relieved my radicular pain so I've been disappointed in surgery overall (all surgeries went technically well).
  • Well I had a severe rupture they where not sure if the micro would work cause it was a large rupture. I had severe foot drop and could barely walk. I realy felt like i had no choice being in pain or try to get better and be produtive. Im almost a yr out and doing great. It took longer to heal theni guessed it would. I work in a plywood plant and was back to work in three months mind you i have a great crew that work under me and they know me and how hard i work so they are still doing the relay hard stuff but they did realy carry me for a few months. I find all paople heal at different rates. I am just now feeling comfortable to jog or run. I do alot of walking and work on the core muscles alot. I do still have some pain and have had days where i was scared out of my mind that i might have to have a fusion cause the doc said any problems well fuse you. Well i hope you have great succes in your choice. Take it easy and go at your own pace. I will not do anything im not comfortable doing. Even though i could before surgery.
  • bmborgia--
    I am almost at the same point you are except my worst pain is in my left butt cheek. I do have have burning pain in my left leg and foot, my pain med is not helping much at all. Plus an awful pins and needles sensation from my butt cheek to my toes. I am due MD surgery in 10 days and I cannot wait.
    The Surgeon has assured me that I will get relief on the the butt and leg pain. The ache in my spine, L-4--L-5 area is doubtful for some reason.
    I hope you find the relief you need soon. Good luck.
    C3-4-5 fusion 2005
    C-5-T-1 disk bulged
    L-4-5 bulge to the right, with Microdiscectomy, failed
    L5- Bi-Lateral bulge
    Pain in right foot -loss of feeling
    Left butt, hip and front thigh pain with bad shooting pain into inside ankle sometimes
  • I only had microdiscectomies because I ran out of options. I was in so much pain and depressed that the quality of life diminished drastically. I lost a lot of weight, couldn't work, sleep (pain kept me awake)..... the list could go on.

    I can't say with 100% certainty that the surgeries were successful, but I gotten my life back. I am not totally pain-free and may be never will be.
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