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edited 06/11/2012 - 8:40 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
im new here was searching for information on plif fusion surgery.i am haveing it 2nd week of febuary, and scared to death, live my whole life from age 23 (car wreck) to now at age 50 in horrible pain. so the neurosugeon wants me to have the PLIF spine fusion-L4/5+L5/51 W/ PEDIADE SCREW FIXATION. so ive been researching and came across this site, what better place to find out what its like than from the people who have had spine fusion surgeries. any and all info and your experiences would be appreciated please. i am so scared to do this. how was the pain and how long were you down, and after surgerey experiences et. etc.

thanks and have a blessed day


  • Debra,

    I had a great PLIF outcome. I will admit that the surgery is rough, the recovery is brutal, but I would do it again.

    Again, welcome

  • ty for the reply, is the new pain from your plif surgery, i hope not i want only this one, many on here seem to have several, that scares me that one leads into many hope thats not true
  • Good morning Deebra, and welcome. I'll agree with JulieA; just to be honest the surgery was pretty tough! You asked about the pain associated with this procedure. Well really it was intense. I got better by the day though. I too would do mine again. I had the PLIF /w instrumentation (pedicle screws & rods) done Nov 10,'09 so that puts me at what, about 1 1/2 months or so post op. While I'm still not back to work, I feel really good. Better than before the surgery by a margin. As I'm sure you already know, the recovery from this surgery is a long term investment in your health. While individual results may vary, my neurosurgeon says that in my case, it may be 6 - 9 months or so before I'm back up full steam. I'm good with that. It feels so good to feel good.

    It sounds like you've been putting up with pretty gnarly pain for 25 years. Even if you're down for a while after surgery, won't it be worth it if you get to feel better?

  • I'm also scheduled for TLIF surgery on February 2nd and found this sight when researching the surgery. I too was scared to death but the more I read here, the calmer I have become about the procedure.

    I'm being optimistic and will message you after surgery to let you know my experience.
  • thanks for the info, just so worried as im sure most are

    have a blessed day
  • i hope all goes well with you, ill keep you in my prayers,
  • Welcome Debra,

    I have not had my fusion yet but can sympathize with the anxiety related to it. I am having a alif/plf which I guess they call a 360 fusion. My local neuro wanted to do a plif and I also went for a second opinion and decided on the 360. It's a tough decision no matter what. You will find alot of great people here and alot of information. Good luck on your journey and keep us posted. Lynette
  • I also had a 2 level PLIF (L2-L4) about 7 years ago and just recently a 2 level ALIF (L4-S1). The posterior way is a much tougher and longer recovery, but does have a better fusion rate, which is why I am wearing a brace this time due to the surgery from the front.

    I understand your anxiety about the fusion domino affect, but that's not true for everyone. For me, my discs are degenerating at an alarming rate, no accident or other reason this is happening. Once you have a fusion the discs above and below take more of the force and abuse. I was not smart, once I felt better from my first fusion I went back to "abusing" it: had another kid, gardening, etc. You will need to protect your back and learn to move differently. Hopefully you will be one of the "lucky" ones and only need the one fusion.

    Check out the list of Post-Op Must Haves, its lengthy but you won't need everything on it. Keep asking questions, there are many helpful people on this site, as well as articles on the various procedures.
  • I go in for my PLIF tomorrow at 1:00 central time, and I too am a bit freaked out. The thing that is keeping me grounded is the thought that I already am in pain all the time and this is my shot at getting some relief. Most people have said that the anticipation is the worst part, and I am hoping that is true. Do your research. Become educated about the surgery and what to expect. Knowledge is power. Best of luck!

  • Julie,

    Wishing you the best of luck for tomorrow.
    Hoping that your surgery goes smoothly and that your road to recovery is straight forward and not too bumpy. Let us know, when you are able, how you get on.

    We're all routing for you.
  • I will chime in with the fellow Spineys--recovery from fusion is brutal,but it gets better by the day--and yes,I think the waiting is far worse--plus you are in pain.Even though you have pain from the surgery,it is different than the pain you have been dealing with in the particular area in your case.I agree with B--I am so grateful to be feeling better---and the painful recovery is a small price to pay for that---please keep us posted,because we know what you are going through!
  • I had open TLIF (or PLIF...both were on orders but guess I never really asked my OS which he did...so I just say TLIF lol) L4-S1 on Oct 5th, 2009. Either way I have 6 screws and 2 rods. I figure I'll kind of give you my story as I have done really well and anyone facing surgery soon could use a positive story...

    In total I had been having back pain and sciatica off and on since I was about 17, but it got much worse about 2 yrs ago. Turns out I had extensive herniations at L4-5 and L5-S1 and I was in excruciating pain no matter what. I spent a little over a year on tons of narcotic pain meds, and trying 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. I was terrified but I couldn't live like that any longer. My pain made my decision for me.

    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've been 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 and have been 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 post-surgery, 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!!
  • Your comment about anticipation is so true. I waited almost three years before I finally decided to have fusion. All that time I was reading on various boards and I was convinced that a one level lumbar fusion was going to be the absolute worst experience of my life.

    As a result, it really wasn't all that bad! They work hard to keep you comfortable in the hospital, and you will be sent home with sufficient pain medications.

    I think the one mistake people who have not done any research make is in not realizing the magnitude of the surgery. Spinal fusion is a BIG surgery and it requires a long recovery. Even though a patient may show bone growth as early as three weeks, it takes a year to get a good, solid, strong fusion. After this point, the fusion can be even stronger than what one had before surgery, but it takes awhile to get to this point.

    Also it is important to realize that in most cases, back surgery does NOT return the person to the way he/she was prior to the onset of pain or injury. You can get close but you won't come out with the back of a teenager! Back surgery is primarily done for pain relief or control...but I haven't heard of a surgeon who guarantees 100% pain relief. If you understand these concepts going in, chances of a successful outcome are more likely and you will be less frustrated.

    Recovery is long and hard and it does require patience. There is little you can do to hurry along the process!

    People only have fusion if they are really in pain...and if that is the case, they are glad they did it and would do it again.

    To get ready for surgery, do your research, get yourself and your house prepared for the post-surgical period, and then spend the coming days making an attempt to relax and de-stress. You'll do better in surgery if you are not tired and stressed.

  • I had my two level PLIF in Dec 08. I had extremem pain from three torn discs, but only did two as the discogram showed they were the worse. I was at a point where I decided it was gonna hurt forever and I didnt have anything to loose. I am still in pain, but not sure if the other disc is problem or just need more time to recover as I have had 9 surgeries in two years. My Ortho thinks that I need more time. I am hopeful that more time will do it. I would still do it again, as it wasnt great the way I was. It is a very serious surgery and it is a long recovery, but they do keep your pain controlled, even now, I still have pain control. Be ready for a minimum of 6 months of taking it easy. No bending twisting or lifting. But the first days are the worst and it gets better with each week. You need to remember to measure your progress by Dr visit to Dr visit or week to week. You will see more progress that way. Good Luck. Love, Robin
  • As always, very well said Gwennie.
  • I had a L5/S1 PLIF with screws and rods on the 4th of January - so 17 days ago. I'm already walking 3 1/2 kms (2 miles I think) outside plus whatever walking I do around in the house. The first week - especially the first couple of days was rough. Currently I'm not taking anything for pain other than the occasional ibuprofen - took two the other night before bed. While I am a long way from "healed up" I already feel MUCH better than before surgery.
    So far I've been really impressed with my recovery and am really glad that I made the decision to have surgery.



  • how well you are doing.
    So encouraging for those of us who are here to learn about recovery from fusion surgery.
  • thanks everyone for the answers, and hope you all have the relief you needed from the pain. i hope im as lucky. my bad thing is i live alone. so i have to go to my sons to stay to be near to the hospital and dr. i just dread beeing dependant on someone to be with me, im so independant. one good thing is his wife is an occupational theropist at the hospital so she deals with the surgery people like us. just dont know what i will do when i go back home which is 50 miles away in the boonies.
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