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Newbie having PLIF

sleeprgirlssleeprgirl Posts: 695
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:37 AM in New Member Introductions
Hi everyone,

Having a one level L5-S1 PLIF on 11/23/09 for prominent facet changes and mild spondylolisthesis. My pain is pretty severe, with numbness in my feet and lower legs. I'm a 49 yo nurse anesthetist, and have been giving anesthesia for these procedures for almost a decade. Never, did I consider that I might need this surgery; so, I never really took note of the procedure itself, just tried to give a safe anesthetic.

You would think that I would have a jump on things going into the surgery; but I don't. I'm very nervous!!

This forum is wonderful. It is also a huge reality check! So...I have had quite a few tearful moments over the past 24 hours that I have been a forum member. I had no idea how difficult the recovery is. Just wanted to say in advance how much I appreciate all the advice and empathy shown to all facing surgery and beyond. I have many questions, not to mention, still do not know enough to ask the appropriate questions (lol!!)

I'm going to just start with the questions that are on my mind right now.

How long are people staying in the hospital after the PLIF?
What is better for pain control in the hospital, pain pumps or intramuscular injections? Do you need a hospital type bed when going home? Are most people on oxygen for that first day after surgery? What about pain meds for home, what works best? Do you need Lyrica or Neurontin? What about muscle spasms, I have fairly severe spasms now...do you have them post-op, also?

I'm having to work until the surgery date, so I do feel strapped for time....love the pre-op to do list!!

Thanks so much for your time!!!



  • I have not had this surgery yet but wanted to pop in and welcome you. It sounds like you have already taken a look at the Surgery Topic. You will find many folks there that have had this surgery and are more than willing to share their experience. Just remember that everyone is completely different so what may be true for others may not be true for you. Good luck and please keep us posted.
  • It's probably just as well that you didn't pay much attention to the surgeries. Better you just approach this as a patient and leave your nursing persona at home for a few days!!

    If you look on the part of the forum entitled "back Surgery and Neck Surgery" or just run a search for fusion, you will find lots of threads pertaining to the surgery. At the top of that segment there is a "sticky note" entitled "Post OP Must Haves". It is an extremely comprehensive list of items people have found useful. You will not want or need most things on the list but it does get you thinking.

    If you are having an open surgery, the stay is usually about 3 days. They will get you up quickly after surgery. Usually people have a catheter after surgery and sometimes a drain. I had a pain pump and was fairly out of it while in the hospital. I mostly napped except when they got me up for PT -- I certainly didn't need a laptop at the hospital!! I don't think my eyes could focus on all the meds I was on!! I was not on oxygen.

    I went home and took my pain meds religiously, around the clock, and I took them for eight weeks. I was on oxycontin, hydrocodone and a muscle relaxer, which I took one of. The doctor added Lyrica around 3 weeks, as I remember it.

    I did not have muscle spasms, but I know others do. The important thing to know is that recovery from spine surgery is not like recovery from any other surgery. It is a long, slow process, at least for most people.

    Please post with all your questions. There are many of us on the board who have had a fusion.

    Good luck to you.
  • I can share my 2 level PLIF experience with you. It was 2003. I was in the hospital for 5 days. I think I had pain meds through my IV, then oral meds. Was sent home with oxycontin and vicodin (?).

    I didn't need a hospital bed. I don't recall being on oxygen at all. The PT's will get you out of bed as soon as possible. You may want to practice "log rolling" to get in and out of bed.

    I will be having a 2 level ALIF Nov. 18th, hopefully this will be a better recovery than last time. Not to freak you out but the recovery from a PLIF is tough and long.

    Get your house in order and accept any help that is offered. Don't rush your recovery. I didn't have spasms last time, now I do, usually in the same spot. Hope that goes away

    If you have more questions or just want to chat, feel free to PM me. Take care, Lisa
  • Hi Lisa and welcome to Spine Health! You will find a great deal of information and generous support from the members.

    I too am having a PLIF on L5/S1 on November 4th. I am scared too, even though I have had two previous back surgeries. The first two went extremely well and I returned to work after two weeks (I have a sedentary job). This will be much different.

    I plan to post to let everyone know how I am doing once I have the surgery, so feel free to read my posts or PM me anytime!

    Take care and try not to worry. As the other members have shared, read the post-op suggestions mentioned in the previous post and get your house in order before your surgery. Thankfully you have lots of time before the big date.

    Please keep us posted and let us know how you are getting along :)

  • Welcome to Spine Health. You have stumbled upon a wealth of information and friendship here. Sorry that you are facing surgery yourself, but sometimes it is just the necessary thing that we have to deal with in life.

    Your surgeon and post op pain control will have a large determination on how long of a stay you have. I would definitely opt for a PCA instead of intramuscular injections for pain meds. Many times if left up to the IM injections, either the nurse is too busy to be there on time, it takes too long to draw up the meds, or worst, they don't want to give you a complete dose even when it is written that you can have up to 3 or 4 times the amount they give you. With a PCA, it's far more comfortable and timely.

    If your sats are good, then you probably won't be on O2 except for initial recovery. Many of us manage without hospital type beds post op, some use recliners, some get pretty creative. You won't know what's comfortable until you try it and that may change as you heal.

    Pain meds for home, well that is pretty much an individual thing or a surgeon thing. Depending on what you are/were taking prior to surgery, that will drive which way the surgeon goes on pain meds. Just don't be afraid to tell the doc what does and does not work for you! I have been on Neurontin for years prior to surgery. I tried to reduce it post op and found that I still need it as part of my daily pain management. I think it depends on how much of an insult there has been to your nerves, as to whether you would need or benefit from that type of med after surgery.

    Muscle spasm seem to be the name of the game post op for quite a while. Although I found them to not be as severe post op. It is nice to have some sort of muscle relaxer post op to keep things from feeling like you are being ripped apart at the incision. As things heal, the spasms generally ease up and things get back to more of a norm.

    As the others have mentioned, check out the post op must haves and recommendations. The more you can prep your home, yourself and your family, the easier it will be for you to simply focus on healing. Also if you have the accessibility to a nutritionist, I found it a huge help to discuss a diet that specifically targets healing from surgery and open wounds.

    Best wishes,

  • OMG...thank you all for your time and thoughts. It means so much to me. I had seriously been in denial and then just clueless about it in general. I have always been so independent..but I have been very cry baby-ish this weekend. I go back to work tomorrow, so that will take my mind off it for a few days.

    I'm concerned about the help I'm going to need from others. Someone I work with in the hospital is a sitter in her off time; she is going to be with me while I'm in the hospital. I am single with aged parents, and will be staying with them for a while afterward. What kind, and how much physical help do you need the first week or two? My mom can't help me get out of bed, but my dad can help some.
    My brother is leaving for military work overseas on my 7th post-op day.

    Sometimes I think that I have irrational worries-haha. But, I have a physically demanding job. Transporting intensive care patients to the operating room, moving patients to/from the OR table.
    Trying to keep people alive...anyway, how long will I need to be off from work.

    This is how I feel about my job. I ultimately want to return to work...however, I want to do NOTHING that will hurt the fusion, so...how long am I realisitically looking at returning to work.

    Have a great Sunday!

  • Your surgeon is the only one who can really give you any idea of how long you need to heal before "testing" your fusion and hardware. A friend of mine who is a neurosurgeon has no problem telling his patients when and how much they can "test" their repairs. He's a Navy doc and repairs spines for those who will seriously test his work. It really is an individual thing and has a lot to do with the type and placement of the hardware as well. I don't think you'll know until you "get there".

    The post op at home help you will typically need, isn't really any heavy duty stuff. Things like help with cooking, cleaning, laundry and normal household tasks. At first you may need help with your shoes if you wear the type with laces. I highly recommend slip ons for a while. Other things that will require assistance, is getting things that are below waist level. In the post op necessities you will see where preparing the home by bringing frequently used items up above waist level is a huge help. So there really shouldn't be much of an issue for your parents in helping you that would be beyond normal everyday life for them.

    Before you leave the hospital, you will be given assistance and taught how to get out of bed. You will most likely find that with a little practice, it won't present much of a problem for you.

    It's perfectly normal to get emotional prior to any surgery of this magnitude. It's even okay to let it happen and to cry about it if you need to. For many people this is a turning point in their life. Please keep in mind that what you see here on the forums, is a skewed representation of the overall results whether it be success or failure. Most folks who have a great outcome from surgery move on once the need for support is diminished or gone. So those who remain here can tend to be the ones less fortunate. My point is, don't resign yourself to a less than stellar outcome, before you ever get started. People can and do achieve some pretty incredible things after fusion surgery. One thing that I think is critical, is to plan on having a good outcome. Our minds and bodies can do wondrous things when we let them!

    Hang in there,

  • Lisa,

    You got quite good and comprehensive answers in the previous posts. I just want to add a couple of things: You most likely won't need a hospital bed, but may need to modify your current bed. 1. Try to purchase a memory foam mattress topper by the time you get home from the hospital, it will make all the difference. 2. A swiveling laptop table (kind of like the hospital tables) will make it easier for you to have evrything you need at your bedside.

    As far as getting out of bed, you will probably be able to do it, if you need assistance, you may keep a walker at your bedside, and grab it when trying to get up.

    Wishing you the best,

  • I don't recall needing help to get out of bed once I was home, even recall getting myself showered without assistance on day two of being home, hubby was amazed.

    I think the pain issue of the recovery is one thing, its the bending, lifting and twisting restrictions that make day-to-day life somewhat difficult.

    As for your occupation (bless you) being a nurse is a very physical job, don't rush back until your surgeon gives you the OK. Is it possible to go back on some kind of "light duty" for awhile? It seems that many Drs. use the 3 month time frame for recovery before returning to work, but everyone is different.
  • hi and welcome to the forum! :H we are here to offer you support and answer what questions we can. you have come to a great place to get your questions answered and gain some friends in the process. good luck on your procedure. please follow your doctor's order's and your recovery will go much better... keep us informed! :D Jenny :)
  • Hi all,

    I am new here. I had fusion surgery on 8-25. Is it normal to still have a lot of back pain at this point. I have gone back to work on 10-12 and sit at a desk. Anyone have any suggestions on how to ease the pain. I get up every 1/2 hour or so and walk for 10mins then ice for 15.

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