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1 year post Lami and L4-5 fusion, worse than ever

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:37 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
In July 2009, I had a laminectomy and an L4-5 fusion with cage and hardware. I was doing pretty well until a month or so ago when I developed weakness in the legs and return pain to the lower back. A few weeks ago, the wife and I took a 6 hour drive down to NC and my condition overnight got even worse and it hasn't gotten any better. Extreme pain/weakness in my thighs, weakness in my knees, tips of my fingers turning white, and more pain in the lower back. I will be going back to my surgeon in a couple of weeks (that's the soonest I could get an appointment). Could this be the result of scar tissue pressing on the nerves, problem with the hardware? I feel like I'm 110 (I'm 59). I have a hard time sleeping and don't want to go back on a daily regiment of pain killers. Thanks.


  • Have you tried heat to your back for 1/2 hr several times a day. Perhaps call your surgeon back and explain symptoms--once my surgeon ordered a dose pack of Decadron over the phone and it helped greatly. As for the cause--i can't quess. I had same surgery as you 3 mos ago and so far so good.
    Best wishes to you w your appointment and let us know what happens.
  • I was about to send a link to you with some information about the formation of scar tissue. But was your surgery in July of this year or 2008? If it was recently, then you could suspect scar tissue as a possible cause of your new problems...but your title indicates surgery was over a year ago, in which case scar tissue would not now be causing problems.

    If you want to learn more about epidural fibrosis, you can read here:


    Hopefully your surgeon will have some solution for you.

  • Yes, my bad. My surgery was July 2008 not 2009. My surgeon has ordered another MRI and I guess we take it from there. Thank you. Any other info/advice would be so much appreciated.
  • I dont have any answers for you, I am still having pain from my 2 level plif last Dec. They took out hardware, and am still recovering from that, with hopes of good results of less pain. Let us know what your Dr says, and try not to overdo until you know whats up. Take care, Love, Robin
  • I just wanted clarification because the timing does make a big difference when it comes to the formation of scar tissue. There is really only a small window of time when the patient has affect the formation of scar tissue and when the scar tissue itself can grow and cause problems. It doesn't suddenly start to form a year or two after surgery.

    I hope that there will not be any new problems and that you have just had some weird flare up. My fusion was 22 months ago and I still get different sensations and pain on occasion when doing something different or travelling. If I do certain housecleaning activities, I will be laid up for days. Sometimes my pain even changes legs for a day or two, but it always eventually goes back to the right leg.

    Were you ever more-or-less free of symptoms after your surgical healing?

    Let us know what they find.

  • Thank you Gwennie. I was never completely pain free after the surgery and have had moderate weakness in the legs beginning several months ago. Now, it is much worse, I also have Raynaud's Syndrome - tips of fingers turn white and then return to normal and it's become an everyday occurrence. About six months after the surgery, I developed an autoimmune disease - believed to be polymyalgia rheumatica, possibly the result of the meds or the stress from the surgery (so I am told) and was on Prednisone for about 2 months. So, as you can see, it has not been an easy experience.
  • this may be caused by just some on-going inflammation in your back. I have had several (I think four) severe flare-ups since I had surgery last November. The flares give me horrible pain, weakness and pain in my legs and generally leave me feeling worn-out and terrible. During these flares I have had to take steroids and Lyrica for the inflammation and the nerve pain. They generally calm down and I go back to feeling better. I'm hoping this is all this turns out to be for you. Having a fused back really sucks, doesn't it? I keep trying to learn to live with it. It's not easy.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • I had polymyalgia rheumatica in 2002 and took prednisone for a year. If I had spine problems back then, I don't know how I would have separated the symptoms as the PR just makes you hurt everywhere, right? My fusion was at L4-5, too and I have continued to have the very same symptoms as prior to surgery. (but, I had spondylolisthesis)

    I recently had a standing MRI and I think my surgeon now understands my problems. I don't see him until the 2nd of Nov. to find out what he thinks should be done about it -- but I suspect I will end up with both adjacent levels fused. Unlike you, I have no pain in my back -- just my leg and only when walking or standing (I feel perfectly fine sitting or lying down). So if I want to spend my life as a permanent couch potato, I'm fine...but that isn't my preference.

    You may have to keep hunting for answers, too. If your current surgeon cannot figure out what is causing the pain, try another specialist. There are many good spinal surgeons out there -- sometimes we just have to keep looking!

  • Thank you Isteller and Gwennie. Yes, with the Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PR) that set in about 6 months after the surgery, I was seeing both a rheumatologist and my ortho surgeon at the same time, what a mess - as you know with these autoimmune diseases they are very hard to diagnose, even with testing (and I was tested for everything) as they mimic other diseases as well. I eventually wound up in the ER from the PR (or suspected PR), the aches were so severe. As for my surgery I had stenosis and severe degeneration of the L4-5 disc. The level above is not in great shape either but the surgeon elected to fuse only one level.. I am now wondering if there is insufficient support higher up that is now contributing to the pain (lower back) and weakness in the legs. The last MRI (taken when I had the PR) also indicated a small bulged disc. The surgeon was not too concerned however. Has it gotten worse, is it the cause, who knows. Hopefully, I will find out.
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