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

New-Need Info on Fusions

JeniferJJenifer Posts: 84
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:39 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
My name is Jenifer and Iam 51. Inbetween 1991-1996 I had 5 laminectomies on discs L3-4 and L4-5.
The success of the surgeries was brief and I am in constant pain. I have had over 25 MRI's, 1 discogram, epidural injections, PT, pain managment, 1 ortopedic surgeon who did not do surgery, but sent me to the first NS who did the 5 surgeries. I then had a second opinon at Mass Gen and he concurred with 1st surgeon. During all of this I was put on every pain medication and none of it worked. Went to get a third opinion 2 years ago and he recomended a spinal fusion. I said no. Went for 4th opinion and he also recommended a fusion, but stated to me that it would have to be "not one fusion, but two and did the other doctor tell you that?". Once again I said no to a fusion of any kind. We decide for me to try the Spinal Cord Stimulator Device. I had the trial and it did not go well, did not have it implanted.
3 months ago the pain was steadly increasing and my PCP says he can give me more drugs, but he says he knows that is not what I want and that I need to go back to the neurosurgeon. (I wear a 100 mcg Fentanyl patch and take dilaudid for breakthrough pain).
Well, that NS moved to TX ( I live in RI) and his practice has been taken over by someone else. This NS is highly recommended and I go and see him 2 weeks ago. He agrees with the other 2 NS's, that I need a 2 level fusion. He spends over an hour with me and shows me the MRI from 06. He says I have to have another MRI, of course, and I do, but in so much pain they have to take me out and I go get a prescription for Adavan and take additional Dialudid. I take that and go back that night to redo the MRI.
His nurse called and said that he said the MRI was "worse", but not anything that would affect the type of surgery that he and I had talked about (so it would still be 2 levels).
I told her I would have to talk to my husband and work and call back.
I am a big "fraidy cat" right about now. I don't want to be worse off, but I understand that this is probably my only choice left. I have been reading your forum here and you all seem so helpful I thought I would write and see what you say.
Sorry it is so long, but figured you would want the details before you give me advice.
I know in the end it is my decision, but I am terrified that I will regret it. The big problem is the pain is getting worse and my quality of life right along with it, but I'm still standing and I do work part time ( I am a leader for Weight Watchers, so usually work 2/3 hours at a time and can go home and rest in between meetings sometimes.) I'm in horrible pain during the night, so much so, my husband want me to go to the ER every night!
I had been active up to this point and have 5 grandchildren that I want to be able to play with and I'm worried that this will make me worse.
Any advise you can give me will be greatly appreciated and if you have any questions for me, please ask.


  • My 2 level PLIF L4-L5-S1 (Posterior Fusion)recovery was terrible, but it has been the best thing for me. After being in pain for many years it is hard to remember what not being in pain is like.

    My lumbar spine & legs feel better than they have in ten years. This last summer (before my neck got bad) I was hiking, jogging and enjoying life pain free. I still get a little sore when I over do it, but it is nothing like I was before.

    Would I do it again- YES. Walking with a cane and wearing a brace all the time and living on pain meds is not for me.

    It took me about 3 months before I felt comfortable enough to go back to work and another 3 months before I was off the Norco.

    Good luck with your decision.


  • I'm 40 and had a microD on L5-S1 and it didn't work. I'm being told I need a fusion. Out of 4 doctors (ortho spine and 1 neuro), 2 said revision micro and 2 said fusion. One of the fusion doctors, when pushed said I could try a hemilaminectomy but that a revision microdiscectomy has a low chance of success due to how little disc height I have.

    I'm in your same boat and am trying to gather information. I am getting an opinion from a remote clinic (through work we get a service free from a respected clinic) and have an appt with a neuro surgeon. Like you I'm not a fan of a fusion but I am also not a fan of pain meds and the impacted lifestyle I've been living the last 4 months.

    I know a fusion won't gurantee me improvement but I'm trying to make the best decision with my situation.

    Things to ask your doctor -> would CT scan or other neurological response tests help further support one decision over the other? In other words, if you don't do this, are you risking a 3level fusion? What other tests or information would be helpful in understanding how to make the decision.

    I sense your frustration and feeling like you are running out of options. HOpefully folks here can help.
  • I know its a tough decision for you to make. All I can offer is my own experience. Mt first bout of back pain started when my first born was 6 months old. I tried PT, meds, etc.

    My decision for a 2 level lumbar fusion became a no-brainer when my husband found me on the kitchen floor sobbing. I dropped something and the pain was so bad I couldn't get myself up.

    The surgery (PLIF) was tough and a long recovery, but I got my life back. Alas, then I went back to all my old habits that weren't kind to my back and due to my history of DDD was back to square 1.

    This time I made a much more informed decision, becoming a member of this site was a Godsend. I knew at what point the meds were only helping me get through each pathetic day. My quality of life sucked. My Dr. said "when you are ready you tell me".

    Well, yesterday was one week post-op of a 2 level ALIF. The experience now vs. the last time is incredible. My back pain is gone, no leg pain and tingling, no drop foot. I'm up and walking and only wished I had done this much sooner; all that time I was in agony and didn't need to be.

    Hope this helps a bit and good luck with your decision.

  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    I had my first fusion at 20. I was a bit young and actually grew an inch between 20 and 21 so later in my mid-20's I had an L4-S1 fusion. As others have said the surgery and recovery are tough. But for 17 years I had drastic improvement. I never needed pain meds, only on occasion would I ask my doctor for a muscle relaxant and was able to get by with advil/aleve/aspirin.

    Now, I have a tendency toward lax ligaments and tendons which makes my joints move. (Had other orthopedic surgeries on knees and feet and neck as a result). So now I may need to have the fusion redone to extend to L3. Am I scared? You bet! But I'm also very very eager to get this done. I've always strived to be as pain free as possible and as functional as possible. If surgery is the answer I've always agreed to go further.

    Many people want to avoid fusion and truth be told it's not the first option that many should consider. But if you've been through all the surgeries thus far a fusion may be a good suggestion. It stabilizes the spine and can eliminate a large portion of the pain. Will you, or I, ever be 100% pain free? Probably not given our surgical histories. But, could we see a drastic increase in functionality and pain level and maybe reduce medications? Yep, I think so.

    It's a decision only you can make but it does sound like you've done research, seen a variety of docs, etc. And all of here will support you in you quest for treatment! Please let me know if you have questions or just need to vent. It's a tough road...but you'll make it through.

    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • I've had a three level fusion and I'm "only" a year out, so you can take what I say with a grain of salt. I am still in pain. Sometimes incredibly so. HOWEVER, I would do the surgery again in a heartbeat. The surgery (for me) was terrible -- I ended up needing two surgeries because they couldn't get my damaged discs out through my back because of scar tissue. My recovery has been long and arduous. However, I can walk and move without extreme jolts of pain and life is one whole heck of a lot better than it was before surgery. I have been told it can take another year before I begin to adjust to this 'fused' life. Not many surgeons like to do more than a two-level fusion, because they are extreme and can cause damage to adjacent discs. So far, my adjacent disc is just fine.

    All I can tell you is this. Fusion will, if done correctly, stop further damage to your spine (unless you have a horribly degenerative condition or you go out running marathons and motorbiking for hours at a time). It will stabilize your back and likely reduce your pain. The surgery itself is difficult. It is not easy to recover from it. You have to work at it and you have to be patient. I've never been a patient person, but I'm trying to deal with it. I have not had the perfect outcome, but I think, looking back on it all, I had no other choice. Given the information I have learned, I'd do the same thing today that I did just slightly over a year ago.

    If you opt for surgery, you'll have lots of friends here pulling for you. For that matter, if you choose not to have it, you'll still have the same.

    I forgot to say I'm 55. I was 52 when I initially injured myself.

    Blessings to you,
    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Dear Linda,
    Thank you for your reply and I apologize for not answering right away. Some how I didn't see that you or anyone else replied until I figured out how this forum worked. Also when another member, Nikki, answered me!
    Anyway, I have the 2 level fusion scheduled for Feb. 9th. I am terrified, but the pain has been increasing steadily and I don't want to risk any more injury.
    How are you feeling? I hope better!?
  • Dear Dnice!
    As I am telling the other people on this thread, I apologize for not responding when you so kindly answered me! I didn't know I had gotten responses!
    I decided on the fusion and it is scheduled for Feb. 9th. Have you made your decision yet? How are you feeling?
    Take care,
  • Dear Lisa,
    Thank you so much for responding, I didn't realize I was getting responses to my posting, till someone else emailed me!
    Thank you for telling me your experiences. Are you still feeling as good as you did when you answered me? You are probably around 9 or 10 weeks post op?
    I decided to do the fusion and it is scheduled for Feb. 9th. I am really worried, but the pain has been increasing weekly. Over this past weekend I could not walk up the last 5 steps of my staircase.
    I started my medical leave of absence today, because my doctor said he thought I had tried hard enough already.
    Any words of advise for me regarding things to do before the surgery to make my life easier while I am recovering?
    I hope you are still feeling good!
    Take care,
  • Hi SpineAZ (sorry, I don't know your name!)
    As I told everyone else that was so kind enough to respond to me, I did not realize I was getting responses to my post, until someone emailed me!
    Have you decided to redo your fusion?
    I decided to do the fusion and it will be on Feb. 9th.
    I welcome any advice you or anyone else has for me regarding things to do before surgery or after or just advice in general! ( I did ready the "sticky" list, about things you may need to have or purchase, that was very helpful).
    Thank you again for your response and I hope you are feeling well.
  • Hi,
    I'm not sure how this will work! I'm trying to continue this thread since it has my history on it.

    I just wanted to say I decided to have the fusion and it is scheduled for Feb. 9th.

    I am still worried and I guess I am just looking for some reassurance or if anyone would like to tell me how they are doing after their fusions!

  • o..k. I am replying to my post.
    Can someone tell me how I can put "updated" next to my subject line or is there someway just to post a new question, but still have my information available so people can see my past surgery history???
  • You can edit your profile to include a signature, it is prefered they are kept to a min of 6 lines, I believe. Choose my account at top of page then little orange edit link. That will allow you to add some of your history.

    I recently had one level L4/5 fusion as you can see in my history and have had a bit of recover issues due to an infection. But that has cleared up. I did try to go back to work a little too early and I am off again for a few more weeks. But other than that, the pain I had prior to surgery is nothing compared to this. I am 43 and was to the point that I was not sure life was worth living in that state, So I know I made the right decision even with the side steps on the way.

    Make the best decision for yourself. Ask your Dr anything you can think of. His overall success rate with type of fusion. Average recovery time for HIS patients. If you need to give your own blood in advance, If you smoke, QUIT. AND stay off them. Get your most used items at waist height and be sure to have help, even someone other than your husband that can come over and give him a break.
    I hope your surgery and recovery are speedy and you don't regret it for a minute.

    Traci :)
  • I had a one level L4/5 ALIF three months ago and it was the best thing I've had done because I can walk without pain and most of the back pain is gone - just have to be careful not to do too much of anything, especially sitting. I was so scared of having a fusion and put it off for too long and was virtually withdrawing from life. I may need further surgery later on because the discs either side of the fusion aren't much good. In the meantime, I'm strengthening my back as gently and as best as I can.

    Do you know how your surgeon is going to do your fusion (back or front)? I felt so well after my surgery but even so, the recovery period was frustrating and initially I got the "four walls syndrome" because of activity restrictions - you'll need to rest and walk and let others help with the housework.

    If you haven't already, do check the sticky Post Op Must Haves - you'll find advice which will be relevant to your surgery.

    Keep as busy as you can preparing and treat yourself to something.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Looks like you are figuring out the system by today! If you want to ask another specific question, just start a new thread...people will see your signature and if that doesn't provide enough information, they can always ask questions of you!

    Many members have had lumbar fusion, so you are bound to get a variety of opinions.

    I know when I was just starting out in the "Wonderful World of Back Surgeries" I knew almost nothing about the anatomy of the spine, what goes wrong and how to "fix" it. I gained so much by talking to others who'd already been down the same road...much more practical information than one gets from the doctor!

    In case your surgeon has sugar-coated the recovery time, be advised that surgeons tend to err on the side of brevity. Fusion is a BIG surgery and you should count on being laid up for a period of time. Sometimes the path gets a little rocky and you will feel like progress comes in baby steps. Having a positive attitude and patience will carry you far.

    Take this time to do those personal maintenance appointments -- things like haircut & color, nails, trip to the dentist (anything where you have to recline in a chair for a period of time will not be comfortable for awhile after fusion surgery).

    For me, the most important items post surgery were a raised toilet seat, a grabber and a satin bottom sheet. It will be very difficult to reposition yourself right after surgery. While in the hospital, with the cotton sheets and cotton gown & robe, I felt like I was stuck to the bed with velcro. The satin or silk sheet makes it much easier to turn over or slide to the edge of the bed to log-roll out.

    Try to keep physically active prior to surgery as much as you can. You want to be in the best condition you can prior to surgery -- walk to keep your strength up and to keep your muscles toned. Walking will be the most important thing you will do after surgery as well.

    Good luck and now that you know the system, post often!

  • Hi Jen! I have had 2 lumbar fusions-one 2 years ago posterior,and one 3 weeks ago,anterior=posterior----ask questions,even if they seem silly to you--we are here for YOU
  • I'm about 10 weeks out from my (2nd) 2 level fusion. Doing pretty well, the cold weather isn't helping, but thats no suprise.

    Before my surgery I made sure the freezer was stocked with home-made soups, meals, etc. Took care of my and my kids' Dr. appointments, Dentist, etc.
    Through-out the house keep most often used items at waist length. Use tabletops and counter space if you have to. Accept any help that is offered. For me, I couldn't get by without my long handled grabber, recliner and heating pad.

    This site has many helpful people on it, don't be shy to keep asking questions, before and after your surgery. Hope I was helpful, Lisa.
  • I can't advise you on fusion surgery but I can certainly sympathise with you trying to avoid it. I too, have spent the last 12 months desperately trying to do everything I can to avoid a fusion.

    I'll be thinking of you on the 9th February and will be watching to hear how you get on and hope that your recovery goes smoothly.

    I am waiting for an appointment with a surgeon to get a second opinion.

    As others have said, use this time to prepare your house and yourself for an extended 'time out' while you recover. I know there are several items that most people say they couldn't do without post surgery. Now is the time to read those books and watch those DVDs.

    Take care, and keep asking questions. The answers will help me too. :-)))

  • Hi Gwennie,
    Thank you for all your advice. I had my annual gyn appt. today, had my mammo 2 weeks ago, a colonoscopy next week and my dentist the week after, inbetween I'm getting a pedi and having my acrylic nails taken off.
    I was going to get satin p.j.'s but I like your idea of a bottom sheet that is satin.
    I had wondered about the toliet seat raiser, because that is the one thing I remember from all the other surgeries I had. A grabber sounds like a must.
    It is freezing here, but I will try to walk more.
    Again thank you!
  • Hi,
    3 weeks ago?! So how are YOU feeling?
  • Hi Liza,
    Thank you! You were very helpful! So how are you feeling? Why is this your second 2 level fusion? Is it because the first one didn't work?
    That's a good idea about stocking the freezer! I will have to make a list of food to get.
  • Hi,
    Sorry, I don't know your name!...
    I have saved a couple of books to read and I knit..a lot!
    I will have to get some DVD....,my son has a bunch, maybe I should just borrow them from him!...good idea... hadn't thought about the DVD's.

    Have you had any type of surgery before? Has a doctor already recommended a surgery and that is why you are getting a second opinion?

    I will keep posting so you can see what I go through!! :))

  • You probably will not feel like reading or watching movies at the beginning of your recovery. You may find that the pain meds will make it difficult to concentrate. My eyes did not even line up sufficiently for me to read if I could have concentrated!

    Perhaps you'll be lucky and not need heavy duty pain meds, but most of us do require them, at least for the first week or two...or three.

    It is important that you are prepared for a two level fusion being a BIG surgery with a long recovery. I guess I mentioned this in an earlier post...so many people are not prepared for this little fact. They expect to have the surgery, recover from the incision, take it easy for a week or two and then be back to normal.

    Unfortunately it almost never works this way. Spinal surgery does not restore the patient to the way he once was prior to onset of pain or injury. But it can come close, and that's enough for most people. It is primarily done for pain control...or lessening of pain...but usually will not take away pain completely, 100%. If a patient understands this going in, he/she has a better chance of recovery and will be less disappointed in the outcome.

    I am not in any way trying to add to your anxiety. I just feel people do much better when they understand what they are facing and do not expect to be back to the usual routine within a month.

    It sounds like you have had sufficient time to ponder your decision. Most people have a good outcome and end up being pleased that they went through with the surgery. Remember that those people usually don't hang around boards such as this, as they are too busy out living their lives.

    I hope you will be one of those people, too.

    xx Gwennie
  • Hi Jen,I am doing pretty well---up to 2 short walks a day,and the last several nights I have slept better.The first few weeks are very tough,but if you rest,take your meds,and try not to get discouraged it will help.You will feel like you have been punched in the stomach and the back,but each day gets better---I am not saying this to scare you,but I just want you to be prepared,and everyone heals differently.I needed both fusions,and I wouldnt change a thing----tomorrow is the 3 week mark of my surgery,and I feel so much better! we are here for you,and pm if you want to talk,jeannie

  • The only surgery I have ever had, was my tonsils out when I was 3. That was a very long time ago! I find the idea of any sort of surgery terrifying, but a fusion particularly so.

    I have seen a back specialist doctor and a surgeon, who both say that the treatment for my condition is decompression with fusion. The surgeon only said at one level, L4/L5 but the doctor thought I might need another level or two fused as those discs are degenerated already. Then I was told that perhaps they could fuse L4/L5 and use a device (Wallis ligament)at L3/L4.

    I have been hanging out on here since October last year, and have learnt a lot, not least what a nice bunch of people lurk around here and how supportive they are.

    I really hope that your surgery fixes your problem to a point where you can get your life back and enjoy your 5 grandchildren. I think that is what we have to do; think of the surgery as a means to an end. Being able to live our life without missing out on too many of the things we enjoy.

    Keep posting; I'll follow your progress with interest (and prayers).

  • for writing back. I do not know what decompression is, this is the first time I have heard of it!
    I will keep posting and I just want to get this over with, but I know the healing is going to take a long time, but I can have patience if I think the outcome will be good. I am only 51 years young and those 5 grandchildren need a fun "movable" grandma!
  • thank you for telling me how to add the lines to the history, but when you said that I could see from your history the fact that you had to deal with an infection...I don't see it! Is there some way to see a person's total history? I feel like I'm missing something.
    Anyway...thank you for your advice, I appreciate it! I am in the process of getting everything I need. I quit smoking over 7 years ago, thankfully, so I don't have to deal with that! My surgeon called last night and I got to talk to him so I feel more at ease now.
    Thank you and I hope you continue to feel good!
  • I so glad that your surgery was a success! I have been terrified of having surgery number 6, and I always swore I would not have a fusion, but after seeing the MRI and the pain getting worse and the doubling of pain meds and not having that help, I know I have to have it done. Especially today. I went shopping to get stuff I need and the pain is now in the inside of my left thigh ( have never had that before) and just stepping up on a curb hurts so much...I can't keep this up and I'm not going to sit home and do nothing!
    I talked to the neurosurgeon last night and I felt better after that. He is doing it through the back.
    Thanks so much, telling me your good experience, makes me feel better!
  • I so glad that your surgery was a success! I have been terrified of having surgery number 6, and I always swore I would not have a fusion, but after seeing the MRI and the pain getting worse and the doubling of pain meds and not having that help, I know I have to have it done. Especially today. I went shopping to get stuff I need and the pain is now in the inside of my left thigh ( have never had that before) and just stepping up on a curb hurts so much...I can't keep this up and I'm not going to sit home and do nothing!
    I talked to the neurosurgeon last night and I felt better after that. He is doing it through the back.
    Thanks so much, telling me your good experience, makes me feel better!
  • No you are not adding to my anxiety! You are making me feel better, because as long as I have the facts and a good idea of what I will be up against, I will be able to deal with it! Not knowing is what makes me fearful.
    I know this is a big surgery and that I may not be 100% painfree when all is said and done, but even if I could be back to feeling like I did this time last year (and I was in pain, but not like this ALL the time and not to the severity) I would be o.k. with that. If I could be a little better than this time last year and not taking as many pain meds, I would be happy. Anything over that, I will be THRILLED with, lol! So I will just hope for the best.
    You are helping me get to that point along with the other people on this and the other threads! I'm sure the closer it gets the nervousness will increase, but I plan on just coming here to see how everyone else is doing...it's nice that we are "all in the same boat" so to speak!
    Thanks again Gwennie!
    Take care,
    p.s...I really loved the last 2 lines you wrote! very reassuring to me!
  • I'm so glad that you are feeling better! When you say you are up to 2 short walks a day...are you inside or out and how far are you walking? About the first two weeks are you mainly in bed? I'm just wondering, I know everyone is different, but I'm trying to get a feel of what those 2 weeks will be like. Is it mostly in bed, resting and sleeping?
    Thanks so much!
Sign In or Register to comment.