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Would love to hear your fusion stories!

mom2boys3mmom2boys3 Posts: 34
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:40 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi all! Before i had my first son, hearing peoples detailed accounts of their births put me as ease. Now that im facing this 2 level lumbar fusion im pretty nervous. I was hoping some of you out there would like to share your surgery stories with me! :)
Cant wait to hear from you! Happy Day~ Cora


  • mom2boys3

    At this point I have no story about fusions. But I have considered it. Any way I would like to hear from you in detail on your journey of recovery that I may better understand what might be ahead of me... I find it to be healing to learn from others.

    I wish you the best


    Mri 2005
    48 year old male who wants to learn from others

    MRI 2005,
    server ddd
    grade 1(it might be grade 2 by now) spondylolisthesis of L5 with back and leg pain
  • tobijay- I will absolutley post the details of my fusion on feb 1st. Like you, coming to this decision was not one taken lightly. It took me 9 years to really feel that my pain had interferred with my life enough to have surgery. I have been on the grin and bear it plan :)So i have all my ducks in a row and im anxiously awaiting surgery.
  • Mom2 & tobijay, good morning to ya both. I want to include tobi on here because his story sounds a lot like mine. And Mom2..well ya asked, so here's my tale! I'm a 46yo male and I have had trouble the last couple years with back and leg pain. Sometimes it wasn't that bad and other times I couldn't deal with it. I was found to have a grade I Spondy. One neurosurgeon and another for 2nd opinion suggested fusion.

    I had L5-S1 PLIF w/instrumentation (screws/rods) done on Nov 10,'09. As with many situations, it has been one of those good/bad things. Mostly good, so I'll start off with the good news! The leg pain and almost all the back pain left right upon surgery and have not been back. I didn't have much post op pain (past the initial hospital stay). After about 2 weeks, all the pain was gone. I can tell that the screws are in my back, sure, but it is a small price to pay in exchange for the relief from the crazy pain I had. I really feel good now. My biggest trouble is that I feel so good that I want to do more than I ought to, so I have to be careful and not hurt myself.

    The bad? Well, this surgery is serious business. Something I read prior to the operation said the procedure might last a couple hours. Bulls&^%! Mine had some complications, but still..it was 12 hours on the table. Eight days in hospital and the first couple were doozies. Like I said, I'd do the operation again knowing what I know now, but just be ready..it ain't for sissies! (deference to Mom2. Childbirth..I can't even imagine!)

    Anyhow, surgery was not too much fun, but it sure feels good to feel good!! My job is/was pretty rough and tumble, and I may not be able to do that anymore. Don't know about that yet, and that's now the biggest thing my mind. I'm not whining about it. Rather, I'm kinda looking forward to a change. New back, maybe new line of work (when the Dr. clears me).

    PM me if you desire any further details about the surgery, recovery or my complications. I'll be glad to tell, but I've already hogged up enough space. Best wishes on your surgery.

  • Mahalo Aaron (I think that is what they say in Hawaii) :)
    Thanks for responding. Hearing other stories really helps me be prepared mentally for what is coming up. How long do they give you iv meds in the hosptial? entire stay?
  • I have had 2 separate 2 level lumbar fusions, though neither was a 360; one was posterior, one anterior, L2-L4 and L4-S1, rods, plates screws and cages.

    The hospital staff should keep you as comfy as possible with meds. Don't be shy about asking for more if pain is not under control. You should be sent home with a script for meds to keep you comfortable. Be prepared for the Physical Therapist to come soon and get you up and moving.

    I think I had the IV pain meds with the button to push for about 2 days.My PLIF hospital stay was 5 days. My ALIF stay was barely 2 days. A 360 is a big operation. Hopefully others on this site who have had a 360 can offer better info than I.

    I know there are always lots of questions and fears about the surgery itself, but for me, the second time around I was more worried about recovery (Its almost 2 months post-op for me). By this time I had 2 kids and knew what my restrictions were going to be (plus a brace this time). I was concerned with getting them off to school, karate, dance, etc. My girls are 5 & 8. I was cleared to drive this time after only 10 days but it is very uncomfortable, mostly getting in and out of the car, so I still don't go out much.

    How old are your boys? My kids try to help me, when I ask, but not like an older child could.

    My biggest concern for you is when you get home: will you have help with you? You will need it. Not trying to scare you, just prepare you. Take the time now to get your house in order: stock the freezer with meals, put everyday items waist length to avoid bending, etc. I have a bunch of most-often worn clothes on top of the dresser so I don't have to bend, stuff like that. There is a great list of "post-op must haves", check it out. I couldn't get by without my long handled grabber and heating pad.

    Hope I was helpful. Feel free to PM me if you want. The more info you have, the better prepared you will be.
  • First of all I want to let you know that everyone's surgeries are different, and that the hospital/recovery/results are also very individual and different from person to person.

    I had a 3 level/360 fusion L2-L5 in 07, after 4 weeks I had to have a Laminectomy to remove cadaver bone that was chipping away from the implants that my surgeon put on me. To make a very long story short, I've had 4 more Laminectomies since those 2 surgeries in 07, the last one was last November. I was diagnosed with
    fail back surgery syndrome and I live in pain 24/7.

    My story is not the best, but I can tell you that if I had to do the surgery all over again, I would do it. When I entered the OR, I knew that there were risks to the surgery, and I knew that there was a chance that it wasn't going to work, but I couldn't walk, I had no life and was spending my days in a bed, so I decided to go for it.

    I have several friends that have gone through spinal surgeries and they are doing great. They went back to their jobs and their lives.... So it comes to show you that we are all different, outcomes are different and vary from person to person, and that making the decision to have surgery is a very personal one, and only you know if you would be able to handle the risks that the surgery brings. Make sure to talk to your surgeon, bring a list of questions to your pre-op appointment, pick his brain! Find out how many surgeries he has done and the outcomes.

    Take care and good luck with your surgery,


  • I am interested how you decided to have surgery. Did both the surgeons who suggested fusion surgery, give you any indication how long you could leave it before surgery?

    Also, were they expecting your surgery to be a long one, or were there complications during the surgery? Do you know what happened to make it take so long?

    It must be great to feel good now. Do you have an expected time to return to work?

    I am thinking about fusion surgery and wonder how long it would be before I could get out and about to attend things. My youngest son is due to graduate this July, and I wonder how long after a fusion I would be able to attend something like that. I would have a fusion at L4/L5 with a spinous device at L3/L4 - I think.

    Take care and continue along the road to full recover and return to work.

  • Sorry about butting in! I am also interested in people's stories about fusion surgery.

    I wish you well on 1st February and will be following your fusion story closely. I haven't agreed to fusion yet, but think that I am inching towards it.

    Take care.
  • Hi Cora and all-----2 years ago I had a spinal fusion at the L3-4 level. The story started when my right leg would get tired,and I would have to stop and rest.Within a month,my foot would go to sleep,and I would literaly have to drag it after I had been sitting awhile.I saw an orthopedic surgeon,did the Mri,xrays,etc.and he suggested fusion. I agreed,and I had the surgery.The incision began bleeding,and I went back in for a 2nd surgery,and stayed 10 days. I wore a brace for 3 months,walker for about the same,did pt. and about 6 months into it I felt really great.The surgery totally wiped me out,and recovery,--I lost about 40 lbs. and strength was along time coming.I was 57 at the time,so that makes a difference..........On Dec.31 ---a week or so ago-I had a posterior anterior spinal fusion on L4-5 with hardware removal of previous surgery,and putting new hardware in fromL3-5...started exactly same way-pain down the leg,numbness,etc. I tried pain injections,pain med,none worked,and I asked for surgery.I was in the hospital 3 days,which to me was not long enough.I am doing so much better than the first surgery-different dr.-awesome back institute----I never considered not having surgery,because I knew I could not live walking a few steps,sit because of pain,and missing out on life---I hope I never have to go through this again,but if the situation warrants,I will have surgery again without a moments thought.I wish you the best of luck,my heart goes out to you---there is so much to think about,but you will make it! Jeannie
  • Since I was very young I have had back pain. I was active, played sports, road horses, was a complete tom boy. So I don't know how I got spondy but it happened.
    My problem was that I went to Dr after Dr about my back hurting and all they did was give me pain meds. I was 38 years old when finally a wonderful Dr came up with this great idea of finding out why my back hurt. Why the other Dr's didn't think of that I don't know.
    When I went in and they found that I had spondy and the bone was cutting at my nerves and muscles they told me that I had 3 options. 1 was the shot and meds for the rest of my life, 2 was physical therapy for the rest of my life, and the third was surgery. I figured that it was a no brainer. I don't want to be someone who always has back problems. I want to be able to live my life to the fullest. play with my daughter and grandkids, go for long walks without pain.
    So, I chose the surgery. It was a really really hard year and a half of pain from the surgery, coming off the pain meds (thats not fun), just total frustration. But it was so worth it and I would do it all over again.
    I now can do anything. Sure, every now and then I get some pain but its my muscles that still need to get used to being used since they never really were.
    I chose surgery so that I can live my life without being the person that stays home when family has an outing to the park, or be the person who doesn't throw the ball or climb on the big toy with the kids and grandkids.
    I am 41 now. I have 3 kids and 2 grandkids. Because the surgery was such a success I can now go to the park and stay there without saying I got to get home and lay down. I can now go for long walks with my husband and wrestle around with my youngest and my grandkids. I can now live.
    It was a hard year and a half of recovery but I would rather do that then have a hard rest of my life.
    Like someone else said, everyone heals differently, every surgery is different. I knew going into surgery that it was a chance that I was taking. I won't count myself as lucky that it worked, I count myself blessed.

  • Thank you for your comments. I am in the position of deciding whether to go for surgery or not and starting to think that I will have to.

    At the moment, I am that person that stays home when the family is out having fun in the snow. I watch while the rest of the family play with my grand daughter. I am 54 and only have 1 grand child, but hope to have others, which I would love to be able to pick up. (My grand daughter was in Paraguay until she was 18 months, so I missed out of the beginning of her life.) It breaks my heart that she always runs to her granddad to be picked up and cuddled, but knows that Nanny can't do it.

    Hope that you are enjoying your return to life!

    Take care.
  • I didn't have 360 fusion, but had open TLIF L4-S1 on Oct 5th, 2009. Here's my story anyway....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, the Dr gave me 2 options. The first was microdiscectomy which would probably give me relief from my leg pain, but 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. Today marks 12 weeks into recovery and feel great! I have ZERO leg pain, and really ZERO back pain. For the first few weeks after surgery, I had a little bit of stiffness at the surgery site, but I couldn't even call it discomfort. I weaned myself almost totally off of all pain meds by week 5.

    I'm back at work since 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.

    At this point I don't even feel like I've had surgery at all. Sure once in a while I can feel my back muscles get tired, but even that is getting better every day.

    I'm also walking a minimum of 2 miles a day since week 3, and can truly say I have no pain. My OS was amazed to see me up and around so easily and without pain, at my 10 week follow-up. He told me "People don't do that well after the surgery you had"...but well here I am, feeling great, doing just about anything I want, including hiking now!

    Oh and I never had PT, OS and I decided it wasn't necessary as I am doing so well and have been kind of doing PT on my own since my first day home. I found a fabulous list of exercises and stretches I could do at home, or in my office, and that's all I have done since I got home from the hospital.

    Here's hoping to you (and all the other spineys facing surgery soon), do well and have positive stories to tell as well!!
  • My boys vary in age.. oldest is 15, middle son is 8 and little guy is 3.. My husband and I hired a nanny to stay with the 3 year old during the day and do the picking/dropping off of the other two. She will also be doing to grocery shopping and cooking diner. Im thinking we will have her help for 2-4 months. We will see how I feel. Last thing i want to do is over do it and not fuse!
    Thanks to all who have shared their stories!
  • I wish all of you that need to make a decision one way or another the best of luck. Its not an easy decision to make. I had to take medical leave and leave everything up to my husband to take care of. My daughter just turned 3 so handling taking care of me, her, the house, and working was a really hard time for him but he was great through it all.
    My one advice to anyone who is about to go through the surgery is that you make sure that you have someone strong with you through it to help you through the hard times.
  • Hi Cora,

    I was like you before my surgery, I wanted to know everything, the good as well as the bad. As you probably observed here, people have very difference experiences even if they have identical surgeries. So I tell you briefly about my three-level lumbar fusion on 5/1/08, just because it went very well, and I want to balance out some of the less successful surgery stories. Now I am older than most of you (73), and in this case it may have been for my advantage as my muscles are not as dense as those of a younger person, although I have been exercising all my life. Well, my 4-hour surgery went very well, when I woke up I had no pain to speak of, only a discomfort about a level 2. I was on the morphine pump then, but two days later it was removed as it made me sick to my stomach and gave me headaches. They may have given me painkillers in my IV, but I never asked for them, and when I left the hospital 3 days later I no longer needed any. During my 5 days in rehab I became self-sufficient and could dress, bathe myself and walk around with a cane, later without. I observed the no BLT rules religiously until my OS told me that I have fused (in about 5 months) and to this day I watch my movements, especially twisting, and bend from the hip. I walked a lot every day and still do. After 7 months I returned to my regular exercise class.

    My pre-surgery sciatic pain is completely gone, I am well, I still tire a bit easy (maybe my age?) but I recover fast. I consider my surgery a total success. Wishing you the same,

  • I started having pain after moving a patient and the patient decided to try to fall, without thinking I used my back to lift him and placem in a wheelchair (about a 250lb patient). It started with tightness and progressed over a year, from occasional sciatica which went away w/ prednisone to constantly sciatica which nothing helped.

    Had my PLIF from L2-L5 and was out for a good 3 months before back to work, and took a good 6 months to really feel about 90% ;-) I am just now coming up to one full year and overall feel great, no sciatica no pain, just some discomfort but definately a good tradeoff.
  • Hi Cora,

    Just wanted to say good luck and great of you to post for input. I can't help. I'm waiting to schedule a revision microdiscectomy (they remove the disc mass that's compressing the nerve) at L5-S1 but if it doesn't work, I wil likely face a fusion. As such, I find posts like this very helpful.

    1 - it let's me see other's experience
    2- it helps teach me what questions to ask my doctor.

    Thank you.

    I will certainly keep you in my prayers and keep us posted on how it goes.
  • Kin, sounds like you are doing really well. Im hopefully i will have a positive outcome.
  • I was a little apprehensive about posting my story, as I have not had such a sucessful outcome. But after seeing my ortho last week, and no problems on the CT or MRI, I thought I would respond.
    I had a two level PLIF Dec 2008. I had tears in 3 discs, but the ortho said only 2 were really bad and didnt want to do a 3 level because he feels that the more levels the more problems you can have. Anyway, I had pain after surgery, and it never really got better. Same type of pain as prior. At 13 months, I still am on high levels of pain meds, but adding to this is the fact that I have had 9 surgeries in the last 2 years. My Ortho feels that I need time to let my body recoup from all of this, and that time might be all that I need.
    I do agree that my body has been through alot, and that more time might change some things. I am willing to give it 6 more months, as I have seen others that have taken 18-24 months to feel better. So I dont think that I am your typical fusion story.
    I hope that your surgery goes well and that you have a very uneventful recovery. There are alot of sucsess stories out there, and I hope in time mine will be one also. Love, Robin
  • I've been fused twice in my lumbar and soon to be twice cervically. Any my fusion was ALIF, that is where they go in from the front. I actually felt better when I woke up than when I went in. The most uncomfortable thing was the incision. I was elated. I didn't listen to the docs and reinjured myself and I strongly suggest you listen to the doc regarding your recovery. You will need to take it easy for several months, wear your brace like you supposed to, no lifting, no long sitting for a while, etc. You will do well, FWIW if you listen to the doc take care of yourself during recovery and you should do well. Good Luck
  • I had a one level fusion PLIF L5S1 on 16th October so will be 13 weeks post op on Friday.

    I saw my surgeon today and I am starting to fuse. I rarely have any leg pain now. Only when I am really tired. Mostly it had gone as soon as I came around. I did really well early on - only needing paracetamol and ibuprofen to combat the surgical pain. I did have a wound infection that developed after 11 days and leaked copiously for 3 and a half weeks afterwards. I was not allowed to do any real exercise during this time which did slow my recovery and gave me cabin fever!

    Once I started doing more exercise I started suffering with muscle pains. The surgeon said that I would feel tired - well sure if tired feels like someone has been using your stomach and back as a punchbag! I have taken stronger pain meds at night to combat the pains and sleep through the night.

    Overall I have to say I think I made the right decision.
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