Welcome, Friend!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Veritas-Health LLC has recently released patient forums to our Arthritis-Health web site.

Please visit http://www.arthritis-health.com/forum

There are several patient story videos on Spine-Health that talk about Arthritis. Search on Patient stories
Protect anonymity
We strongly suggest that members do not include their email addresses. Once that is published , your email address is available to anyone on the internet , including hackers.

All discussions and comments that contain an external URL will be automatically moved to the spam queue. No external URL pointing to a medical web site is permitted. Forum rules also indicate that you need prior moderator approval. If you are going to post an external URL, contact one of the moderators to get their approval.
Attention New Members
Your initial discussion or comment automatically is sent to a moderator's approval queue before it can be published.
There are no medical professionals on this forum side of the site. Therefore, no one is capable or permitted to provide any type of medical advice.
This includes any analysis, interpretation, or advice based on any diagnostic test

Lumbar Spinal fusion - could do with some positive stories...!

JuileJJuile Posts: 24
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:38 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Am new here and looking around the forum, have noticed lots and lots of people struggling after fusion. I appreciate this is major surgery and that there are often complications, but it's still scary.

I'm having posterior lumbar fusion at one level (L5/L4) in December. My disc at that level is virtually none existent, so the only option left is fusion. I've been looking forward to it (with some trepidation obviously!) as a route through to a better, more mobile and less painful life. My surgeon says there's an 80% chance of improvement to my condition, and I'm convinced after four years of trying all other options, that I have no choice. Still though reading on here, there's lots of people in increased pain after the surgery and months later at that. I realise people often only post on here if they need help and support, but still could do with some positive stories to redress the balance!

So are there folk out there who've found fusion successful? I don't want to be unrealistic. I know it's painful and can take a long time to recover from, but equally I could use some positive stories to go alongside the more worrying ones. Any advice welcomed though. Thanks in advance!


  • I had Lamiotomies L4-S1...had stenois at L4,L5...and hernated disc at L5,S1...ns did micro disectomy...got rods L4 to S1...i did all the convental stuff but burnning pain in right leg was just too much and i had the surgery in 2006...I got the relief i was looking for...It took a good yr till i was ready to go back to work..PT really helped after surgery...I would do it all over again..
    I've since injured my back again but PM is making good progrees on me..I wish u good luck Julie..

  • There was a thread recently about success stories but I can't seem to find it at the moment.

    People who have completely recovered and had a 100% successful outcome are not hanging around forums on the internet. They are out making up for lost time!

    I think the majority of people on this forum, if polled, would still say they are glad they had fusion, even if they still have problems. But most of those people are still on here because they are looking for ways to improve their particular situations.

    I feel the most important thing you can do as a consumer of health care is to do your homework. Make sure you are going to the best person for the job. Try to determine that you have no other options than fusion, as there aren't too many opportunities for "do-overs" once this surgery is performed. Learn all you can about the type of procedure you will be having so you can prepare yourself, physically and mentally.

    I think the problem in discussing "success" is that there are many definitions. My fusion at L4-5 was successful in medical terms. The doctor accomplished what he set out to accomplish; there were no problems and I healed beautifully. The only problem is that I still have the same nerve pain running down my leg that prevents me from standing for more than a couple minutes or walking more than a block or two. Statistically I am counted among those that had a successful fusion. But in terms of how it affects me, I am just slightly better than I was.

    Also, I have found from reading thousands of posts that many people enter into back surgery casually. They really don't understand what they are signing up for and are then surprised. Too many people think that surgery will restore them to the way they were prior to the onset of back injury or pain, or the way they were in their twenties...etc. If they go in with that attitude, they are bound to be disappointed.

    Your surgeon tells you that there's an 80% chance of improvement in your case...and I imagine most of us were told something similar. We tend to hear the 80% and ignore thinking about the other 20% or what the surgeon's definition of "improvement" is.

    I say all the above not to discourage you but in an attempt to explain why you see so many "negative" posts on this, and other boards.

    I hope you will be back this time next year to post about your successful fusion! Good luck.

  • I also am new , have to go for a L3-L4 fusion and L5 -S1 microdiscop. on 11/18/09. I really am scared. They say three weeks after that I will get my cervical surgery to my neck done. This is all going so fast. I wonder if I will ever drive my school bus again.I was hopeing that the recovery would only be about 3 months I guess I was wrong. I go to the doctors on thursday and have alot of questions on tips that I had gotten of the site I would of never thought of so thanks to all who wright on the message boards you really dont know how many people you help, so I decided to sign up to say thanks to everyone. you have made me feel better but I'm still scared.
  • This surgery is a very big deal and I am really just now (10 weeks out) wrapping my mind on the fact that it really will take me a year or so to see final results. Also, keep in mind that the 80% that is quoted is "some" improvment. Not 80% of people are pain free and good as new, it is 80% of people will be helped in "some" way from this surgery. So keep that in mind. And also, it is true, most people are here because they are still in pain and need the friendship and support. Most success stories are off living their lives (lucky ducks!!) I wish you well and hope you are a success and come here to share it with us!!!
    Take care,
  • Thanks all - I wasn't expecting such quick replies. Gwennie, I know - I think that's why I'm anxious..! But sadly I really don't have any other route than surgery. I've tried everything else over the past four years or so and the bottom line is that the disc's virtually gone and so everything down there is horribly inflammed. Thankfully my Surgeon is good, so I'm onto that one. He's also very patient as I've asked extraordinary amounts of questions and took my other half with me to the last consult as extra brain power. I know the 80% quoted isn't a total cure rate, but to me some improvement seems worth it for now. I'm still relatively young, so I want to give it a go.
    Unlike you, I'm lucky in that the nerve pain isn't too awful - I've been there in the past, but an injection seemed to shift that for me. I still have it, but it's now mostly bearable apart from in the evenings. I pity you if you still suffer. I thought I'd go mad when I had it.

    Thanks to all for replying. It's good to hear some positivity on here. Though anybody who wants to tell me the whole gory truth feel welcome..

    + Bswierk, fingers crossed for you. I will be thinking of you when your date comes. Really hope it goes well.
  • a 360 fusion. I try to give the same advice to anyone who ask......be realistic about the outcome and recovery of a fusion surgery. It is a major surgery- there is a requirement of restrictions. You will never be 100%, your back will never be as God intended it to be. That in itself was really profoundly hard for me to wrap my brain around. In all you do, stay positive- i believe in the positive frequency and the fact that anger and negativity adds to the pain. Be willing to adjust the way you live, listen to your doctor, and listen to your body. May wise choices and know that a fusion can possibly make your pain worse. I feel as if I am too early to say 100% that its working as I still have nerve pain, hip pain and back pain. I am hoping that is just the nerve that was compressed for so long is coming back to life so to speak. That is my hope anyways. I am cutting back on my pain meds and only take when I really need them. Before, I made sure I stayed ahead of the pain but now I try to just use them as needed. I am not fearful of becoming addicted, but I am sure it is not good to be on all these pains for long period of time. I started to show sign of fusion at 3 weeks so as Gwennie17 said even though the doctor may say is was a success, you may feel differently. I exhusted all the conservative treatments befor having the fusion. I have now started what will be a long road of physical therapy. I want to wish you luck and the very best of recovery. Be good to yourself and let other help you as much as possible!!
  • I was the same as you -- I had no choice, and I am not sorry I did it. As a matter of fact, I have an appointment in a half hour to see whether I am going to have a little more surgery!! If so, it will be my third January in a row for spinal surgery.

    It is a good sign that you were helped by the ESI. I never had any response (up until recently) prior to surgery. It sounds like you've done your homework.

    Did you think about ADR? I don't know if you'd be a candidate or not....I just wondered if you explored that possibility.

    My post was not meant to discourage you. I just want to make sure people have their eyes wide open. The numbers of fusions have gone up dramatically and we know from research that not everyone who has fusion actually needed one...I also know some docs jump to that right away, needed or not. Luckily they are few and far between...but I just want people to be aware that this is not like having an appendix out.

    Gotta run -- I'm sure we'll talk more soon.

  • I was gone from this forum for a very long time after I heeled & recovered from my PLIF L4-S1.

    There were some rough days after surgery, usually because I over did it. I did not get sent home with a brace but I did where my hard brace (got before the surgery from a different md) when I was doing certain things that I knew would be painful. I think I had about 2 weeks where I slept most the time and then I started driving short distances and grocery shopping etc. I always got sore after walking (I used a cane for about 4 weeks. I also took advantage of Handicap parking and motorized carts.

    I was back to work (I work from home based office as an outside sales person) at 11 weeks. I continued using Norco for a couple more months (as needed) but Tylenol worked good too.

    At 11 weeks I would be ready to lay down and rest my back at 4 pm, at 5 months it was 6 pm, now I am good all day and only get sore if I am on my feet all day. Mini break work wonders.

    I had a great summer (if I don't add the new neck problem). I felt good enough to hike several hours at least 1 per week and I felt "free" for the first time in I don't know how long.

    I don't really notice any loss of motion. PT helped mw with it.

    I would do it again no question asked. My quality of life changed for the better. I had a friend who had this done tell me the Doctors tell you a year... And that is true you feel better at a year, but at 2 years you are even better.

  • So are the first couple of weeks afterwards the worst? Am guessing so and expecting pain for some considerable time after that, but am worried if it's months and months of struggle, as though I'm more than used to living with pain if it's long term worse than now, I'm going to find it hard. I have a five year old son, who's good as gold but it's hard on him if I'm boring mum all the time due to back pain. I'd guess that's mostly a lottery though.
    + Gwennie, excuse my ignorance, but what is ADR? I'm not good at the acronyms and am also UK based, so it might well be called something different here. How did your appointment go? Hope it went really well and you got the answers you needed.
  • I have never felt better. I haven't logged in for a long time because like someone said above, after you heal you move on with life.
    The first month was the worse and I prayed over and over again that someone would take the pain away. the pain pills didn't work as well as I was hoping. I went back to work 6 weeks after the surgery. I was really hard but my co-workers and my manager were great with helping me through it. I went in for PT after week 8 and only did that for a few weeks. Once I had the stretches down, it was all things that I can do on my own.It took until about month 8 that I no longer got sciatica through my legs. The stretching really helped with relieving the pain when it did come.
    I am SOOOO glad that I had it done. It was a bad time going through it but it was sooo well worth it. I can play with my 5 year old daughter and my 2 year old grandson, I can walk long distances without having to sit down. I can sit through a whole movie now without having to stand from getting stiff. I can sleep at night and get out of bed without having to do the special roll.
    Believe me, I was scared to death when I went in for my surgery and the waiting and anticipation of it all was hard to bear. But, in the end it all worked out great and I am happy as can be.
    41 years old and ready to be a teenager now!!!!
  • ..that's so incredible to hear. How amazing to be able to play again. That's really all I want. To be able to kick a ball round with my son would make it all worthwhile.
  • playing with my daughter now is sooo amazing. I can wrestle with her, play tag, go to the park and play on the toys with her.
    There are days that I still get some twinges in my back or down my legs but they are far and few between and much less painful compared to the past. I had the problem since I was a kid in 8th grade. all the doctors that I went to would give me shots or pain pills but never would actually call for an xray. until I met my doctor that I have now. She is really good. she wanted to actually know why I was having the pain (imagine that!) so she sent me in for an xray and found the problem.
    when you hear the horror stories from people that had their surgeries years ago it makes you really scared but the technology and the know how noadays is amazing compared to back then.
    My surgeon actually teaches at the colleges as well so he keeps up with all the new technology. Back surgery has really came along way so now is the better time to get anything done. At least thats my opinion.
  • I am 1 month post op and doing great. I had L5-S1 360 fusion. That just means they went in from both sides. I am pain free and off all pain medicine. I am a minister and preached two sermons 3 weeks after my surgery.
    Here is my experience.

    Also some positive and negative results from others surgeries. Surgery works for some an some it does not. I hope far more benefit than don't.

    I have put you on our prayer list and will be praying for during and after your surgery. God Bless!

    John 14:27 (KJV)
    27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
  • I'm not counting my chickens, but thanks to all for sending me some positive stories.
    dcarter, that's so, so what I want. I have a Surgeon who's a lecturer too. I feel really lucky to have him.
    + jwl2250, that's astounding. Your story is so uplifting. I am delighted for you. And how kind to place my in your prayers, it's much appreciated.
  • See, while I was gone you got some good stories!! And there are lots more out there. I am almost two years out from my fusion, and just in the last two weeks something different is going on. I was about ready to have more fusion after the holidays...but some weird things are going on, and I think I may be a little better. So I am going to have one more transforaminal injection and see what happens.

    My surgeon this afternoon was very baffled. But he did say that there was no way he was going to perform a fusion on me if he wasn't sure what is causing my pain. So, for now, I guess I'm not planning on more fusion....so back to my funny little Vietnamese doctor for yet another injection. The fun never ends!

    (ADR is artificial disc replacement.)
  • Hope so, though it sounds a bit confusing. Fingers crossed for you then that your body sorts itself. You'll have to let me know.
    + thanks for interpreting, but no ADR isn't an option for me. The disc has corroded to such an extent that there's no longer sufficient space for a new disc. Big pity, but just how it is. The Surgeon showed me the MRI results and the amount of disc left is virtually non-existent. Too late for ADR then. Shame as they could have if they'd got to it earlier. I know they're not psychic, but I've spent four years trying all sorts, and of course while that's been ongoing the disc has just disintegrated to almost nothing. Not anyone's fault, but it's still annoying with hindsight.
  • Some of us aren't 100% cured after surgery, but I can tell you that I am so much better than I was before I had my fusion. I used to walk down the hallway at work hanging onto the wall and every couple of feet I would have to gasp in pain, stop moving until my legs were ready to go again. I'm almost a year out now and, since I had three levels fused, I can still get pretty stiff, but I move pretty well and take the dog out for walks and to the dog park with no problem. No cane, no gasping at uncontrollable pain, and no more "oh woe is me!" I do have days when the pain can climb the scale, but they are fewer days now and I'm glad I had the surgery.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • You've been through the mill haven't you. How brave of you to go for the three level fusion. I feel like I'm small fry with only one. Great to hear you've felt some benefit though. Must be a huge relief for you. I hope it continues to improve. Fingers crossed for you.
  • I had extensive herniations at L4-5 and L5-S1 and I was in excruciating pain no matter what. After a little over a year of tons of narcotic pain meds, PT, ESI's, etc., and I still couldn't even walk to the bathroom without a cane, and some mental preparation beforehand.

    Come August, I w Dr gave me 2 options. The first was microdiscectomy which would probably give me relief from my leg pain, but probably not my back pain, and it wouldn't be a matter of IF I re-herniated, but WHEN. My second option was fusion, which of course would give me significant if not total relief from my leg and back pain as the offending discs and herniations would be completely removed. So even though I am only 30 yrs old, I went for the one big surgery, rather than multiples over time.

    And it was the best decision I could've made. I'm just a little over 3 weeks into recovery and feel great! I have ZERO leg pain, and really ZERO back pain. I have a little bit of stiffness at the surgery site, but I can't even call it discomfort. I've already weaned myself almost totally off of all pain meds (and only take the 1/2 pill twice a day to avoid withdrawals).

    I'm back at work this week, (at week 4 of recovery Dr actually released me at week 2 because I have an office job, but I chose to take 2 more weeks so I could get as much of my strength back as possible.) and have been driving since week 3. The only things I can't do are those within the basic restrictions (NO BLT). I'm also walking a minimum of 2 miles a day and can truly say I have no pain. At the end of the day I'm a little tired and stiff, but not something I'd even take a tylenol for. A warm blanket and my recliner, and I'm happy as a clam!

    As others have said, it's about how much pain you're in, and what kind of quality of life you're looking for.
  • I am going in for an L5-S1 Anterior Fusion due to same fact, I can not sit thru a movie w/o pain and I am on a 7.5 out of 10 every day by 11am. I have no leg pain it;s all in my lower back, it's great to hear a success story, the feedback helps I am very nervous about my sch surgery for Dec 17, 09. My MD says I will be able to play golf in 3 months, I hope I have no pain in 6 months, that would do for starters. Would enjoy hearing any others tips you have for post op. Thanks Dcarter
  • Hi Julie,

    In 2003 I had a 2 level PLIF (L2-L4) and I would say that after a long recovery, my fusion was very successful.

    HOWEVER, I was foolish and went back to my old ways of gardening, lifting too much, and , oh yeah, having another child! These things all added up to my need for another 2 level lumbar fusion (L4-S1).

    I cannot stress enough to take care of your back post-surgery, no matter how great you feel. You will always need to be careful.

    My ALIF 2 level surgery is scheduled for Nov. 18th. Feel free to PM me with any questions. Post surgery I will let everyone know how I am doing.
  • I have not been on this board in a long time and thought I would check in for a visit. As of 11/1/09, I am 18 months post-op after having a 3-level fusion at L3-4, L4-5 and L5-S1. My lower two discs were pretty much non-existent and the vertebrae were bone-on-bone. The L3-4 disc was in bad shape as well. (I have degenerative disc disease and had a microdiscectomy on L5-S1 in 1998.) I did have a functional discogram done as one of the diagnostic tests before the fusion surgery.

    I have two rods, 8 screws and 3 spacers (where my discs were) in my lower back. I actually came out of surgery about 1/2 inch taller than when I went in. My surgery was the "minimally invasive" type; no huge incisions, but 4 smaller incisions near my spine (2 on each side). No muscles were removed from my spine; the surgeon worked through them in a keyhole approach. My surgery was supposed to be 3-4 hours, but ended up being 9 hours. I had some bumps along the way and ended up waking up in ICU because of a blod clot, probably caused by the length of the surgery, which was not expected. That problem was soon resolved.

    I went into the surgery expecting the first 3 months to be the hardest...they were. I started off with a walker for the first month and then graduated to a cane, which I used for about a month. I wore my brace exactly as my doctor told me to do.

    I faithfully read this board for months in preparation for my surgery...so I went into it prepared and I'm glad I did. The information I found on this board was of great help to me. I prepared myself for a slow, but steady recovery; listened to my doctors and followed what I was supposed TO DO and NOT TO DO to the letter. My surgery was on May 1 and I was completely off prescription pain meds by July 13.

    One of the hardest things for me to do was to swallow my pride and accept help. I am a stay-at-home mom with a wonderful husband, 4 helpful teenagers and a large church "family". It was difficult for me to go from caregiver to being the one who needed the care. Looking back, I am very grateful.

    The best thing I did was rent a hospital bed (the adjustable, electric kind) and put it in the living room so I could still be part of my family....I needed to know what was going on. It was there for 3 months and was my lifesaver. The other thing I did was attend physical therapy sessions faithfully and walk, walk, walk and walk.

    Sometimes I felt like my progress was moving at a snail's pace and there were days when I questioned my decision to have surgery, but I just couldn't go on living with pain everyday.

    Last April, I joined a gym and work out 2-3 times a week. I started off with a trainer and after discussing my "spine situation" he helped me with a program that would be helpful and safe for me. I ended up losing 30 pounds. My biggest accomplishment is being able to ride my horse again. I have not managed to be able to "climb aboard" without the help of a mounting block (he's a tall horse), but can walk, trot and canter with no pain. Being able to get in the saddle with no help is a goal that I've set for myself. My days of carrying hay bales are over, but I have teenage sons that can do that. For me, part of my "surgical journey" was to understand and accept the fact that there would probably be some things that I just plain wouldn't be able to do anymore...which was hard...I'm stubborn. I have learned to go with "Plan B" when needed.

    We are all different and have varying spinal issues with varying results.....sometimes surgery works....sometimes it doesn't. There are no two of us the same. I can't say that what worked for me will work for anyone else, just wanted to share some of my story. I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

    Sorry to have rambled on for so long. Just wanted to share hoping that this might help someone out there.
  • am a bit over whelmed that you've all taken the time to tell me your stories. It's so heartening to hear you're all doing well.
    aWalker, obviously that's what I want too! How amazing that you've turned your life around so quickly. You must have an amazing surgeon and have a back that wanted to be cured.
    lisa, thanks for the advice - I'm already a bit wary of what to do afterwards, and as you say each step at a time. The Surgeon looked at my next two discs as they're not looking great either, but after a Discogram decided that the bottom disc is most likely the one causing the pain - there's nothing left of it, so it is most likely. As I know there are two more discs in crisis, I will most definitely not take up bungee jumping though..! Really sending you my best for the 18th - let us know how you are.
    + bk, well you sound like you've had a hard road, but the right attitude and knowledge has obviously powered you through. I will do my best not to expect too much.
    Thanks again to all. It's really appreciated.
  • Well I'm not healed yet from my surgery, but I wanted to let you know, I felt better standing the day after surgery than I did the day before surgery. Yes it was horribly painful, but I could actually put my right foot all the way down on the floor without shooting pain from my hip to my toe. I don't know if my fusion will work or not but I feel so much better now. I still have some pain but better. Another thing is you need someone to stay at the hospital 24/7 to advocate for you. If the meds aren't working they can argue with the nurses or call the doctor for you.
  • Julie, let me tell you this... DO NOT read or get too caught up with the horror stories on this website! My wife and many others told me that you will never really hear POSITIVE stories here because most of the people that are doing well are not on a computer, they are out enjoying themselves!

    I HIGHLY SUGGEST THIS!!! Whoever tuns this site should "thumbnail" a thread that always stays at the top of these threads that are nothing but POSITIVE stories about back surgeries!

    Julie, I am 14 days post L5-S1 fusion. I am walking about 2-3 miles per day, got my staples out a few days ago, sleeping well, still on some pain meds but doing great! Iwould be more than happy to answer ANY questions you have concerning your surgery! Do not be afraid, GO GET'EM!! You will do fine!
  • I must stay positive. Googling can be a curse , but then knowledge is power too, and a lot of the information on here is so, so useful. I think someone earlier said it's important to understand that this is a big operation and to expect it to take time and be painful - I respect that totally, as there must be nothing worse than psyching yourself up for an op, then coming out expecting to be okay but you're not..
    But then you're totally right too Mark. Operations often work; that's why they do them. I'm feeling excited about the op and all of these replies, even from those who are struggling still, are helping me stay positive. Hope your recovery continues to go well Mark. I may well e-you some questions at some point. Thanks for the offer.
    + lilac, that's good advice. My other half's going to take a week off work so that he can be there for me, so I'll tell him what you say and make sure we've discussed everything before I go under...
  • Julie,
    I have been a member here for over 2 years and I'd like to think that most of my posts have been positive. Let me begin by saying that my back troubles started with a rare spinal infection, leading to emergency surgery, which led to a 360 multi-level fusion. All of this happened in a little over a year. I didn't have a chance to explore alternative options, I was in too much pain, losing 4 discs that just disintegrated due to my spine being so unstable. My fusion surgery wasn't an option, it was necessary in order to resume something of a normal life. I consider that I have that normal life today but it took a long time to get here, and its taking a lot of work to remain here. As I have reported here several times, I walk 4 plus miles, 5 times a week, all year round, rain or snow. Pain is still my constant companion but its a pain I can deal with, its there but its not keeping me from living my life. I am in better shape than I've been in for the last 29 years and I am beginning to enjoy my retirement.

    Emergency surgery in March of 2006 for spinal infection of L 2 and L 3. During surgery, discovered I had Cauda Equina Syndrome. Spine became unstable after surgery and had 360 fusion with 10 pedicle screws, plates and rods in April of 2007.
  • It's humbling to hear how people in far worse shape than me have come through surgery and are improving. So pleased to hear you can finally enjoy life again. I hope it keeps improving for you. Thanks again.
  • I had a PLIF L5/S1 on Nov. 4th (it will be two weeks this Wed.). I have had two previous back surgeries.

    Just wanted to let you know that I am doing
    wonderful. Although I still have some leg pain, I am off all narcotics and am walking around my neighborhood two to three times per day. I haven't had my follow-up x-ray to see how I am fusing, but I am confident all is well.

    Just remember to follow the surgeon's recommendations and no BLT (bending, lifting or twisting).

    Lisa :)
  • Am also glad to see this post! Scheduled for surgery on 02/02/09 for L5-S1 decompression, instrumentation and fusion and have already started feeling overwhelmed and anxious. Reading everyone's positive comments as well as all the tips and suggestions has been a huge help for preparing myself and my family for what's ahead of us.

    I know it will be hard but am confident in my surgeon and staying positive. Will definitely have my laptop with me in hospital so I can read the encouraging posts and keep my spirits up!
Sign In or Register to comment.