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PLIF - Scared to death!

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,662
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:36 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello folks,

I have been seeing a local spinal surgical group off and on for years, (detailed history below). After all kinds of treatments and years of suffering I actually finally met the surgeon last week. If I agree, when I go back next Monday he will be scheduling me for multi-level PLIF at S1/L5, L5/4, L4/3. After a discussion about my quality of life right now he described this surgery with the use of 8 screws, 2 rods and cages at each disk joint. He described the 3 disks as being "gone." He also described the limited motion I will have and that there is an 80 - 95% chance of sympton relief. The surgeon has a very good reputation and is the best in the area, (take that for what it's worth since I live in West Virginia).

I don't mind telling you all that I am terrified! I have never had a surgery near this serious to begin with. I think the worse thing is it sounds like such a grusomely painful thing to have all that work done with all the hardware. I realize I am not talking to medical professionals but at least with a group like this, I can know there is probably no alterior motives. I just have a couple questions:

1. With the history described below, I would be interested in knowing if anybody thinks this sounds like the right thing....? While I knew I was coming down to surgery, I guess I hoped for a more simple sollution at my young 44 years of age.

2. I have been on a relatively steady diet of 7.5/500 lortabs for the last 3 years. Knowing how inaffective they are now, I am terrified that they will be unable to or unwilling to give me whatever it takes to control the post operative pain. Am I being overly concerned? I know it will get better each day but I just don't know what to expect otherwise.

I really do appreciate all of you and your advise. This is a terrific site.

Thanks in advance,


- C7/T1 joint w/ burning knott like pain began around 1997. MRI revealed bulging disks, moderate spurring, minor stenosis. Recommended PT done with little help.

- Lower back & leg pain began around 1999. MRI revealed mild to moderate disk degeneration & bulging w/ stenosis at S1/L5, L5/L4, L4/L3, L3/L2, moderate spurring, stage 1 spondylolisthesis w/ stenosis at S1/L5, L5/4, L4/3. Also mentioned is a 4mm tear in disk at L5/4.

- In last 3 yrs. lower back pain has become increasingly worse. Along w/ pain at lower back and legs, my left leg becomes weak and numb after being on my feet for approximately 5 minutes. I also may be having some minor bladder control issues at night. EMG reveals no nerve damage.

- Lower back treatment has included dozens of trigger point injections, pain mgmt. w/ 7.5/500 lortab. In the last year completed 18 sessions of PT for lower back and neck, multiple steroid epidural injections, steroid facet injections. Only a few weeks relief at a time from injections. Still suffer from the burning knot like pain in upper back C7/T1 area but it is manageable with no other nerve or arm pain symptoms.

- Recent lower back MRI is much the same as earlier studies with progression to moderate disk degeneration, bulging, stenosis, spurring, etc. The study from early 2009 also describes moderate osteoarthritis at lumbar area.

- I have been off work for the last 6 months due to my problems.


  • My first question to you is have you had two opinions? You really need to get another opinion if you havnt. I think it will set your mind at ease as to doing the right thing. I cant tell you if you are doing the right thing, but it seems like you have gone through all the conservative measures.
    As far as pain control, I would address that with your surgeon. They will definently control your pain at the hospital, and your Dr should send you home on something that controls your pain. Have you told them how ineffective the lortabs are? Have you seen a pain Dr? I would have your Dr send you to a pain Dr to get it under control, and also you may need them post surgery, as most surgeons only work with you and pain control for a period of time. Then you need a pain dr to work with you through your rehab. Hope this helps. Keep us informed on how things are going and when surgery is. Welcome
  • Hi Bob

    Welcome to Spine-Health. As Robin has said, a second opinion from another neuro or orthopedic surgeon would be good, and then you can make a decision which is right for you. You may even need to get a third opinion - the neurosurgeon I'm now with is my third one.

    It is a big surgery that's been recommended for you and very understandable that you're terrified. There's lots of doctor articles on this site which are very helpful.

    Let us know how you're going.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Hi Bob,

    I am sorry that you are going through such a rough time and you are nervous about it. I had exactly the same surgery you are supposed to have almost 17 months ago. It is a big surgery but if you can expect relief from it it is definitely worth it. I have been very lucky because mine went very well, but everybody responds differently, so it is hard to predict exactly how yours will go. But if you have a good surgeon who thinks you will have 80-95% of your symptoms relieved, that is promising. However, I still agree with the previous posts, to get a second or even a third opinion, if at all possible. You are still young, but considering your long history of back problems other surgeons may still recommend surgery. But at least you explored other avenues.

    Good luck and get relief soon,

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