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I'm panicking about poss fusion - any advice?

SueDSSueD Posts: 545
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:41 AM in Lower Back Pain
Hi all. I've posted before about having a discogram etc. and your comments were really helpful.

Now I'm in a quandry. The copy letter I received from the new consultant to my doc said that if the discogram was positive (which it was) then he'll book me in for a PLIF. I'm now very worried because I've only just started a new job and am frightened of losing it if I'm off work.

I know everybody's experience of surgery is different, but can anyone give me an idea of roughly how long I may be off work (presuming everything heals well and there are no complications)?

The job I do is actually making my back pain worse and I've also recently had to reduce the dose of morphine patches because of the side effects - resulting in increased lbp. It seems to be a vicious circle and I'm panicking a bit.

I haven't got an appointment yet to discuss the results and it may be that surgery is not an option for me afterall. I have 100 per cent faith in this new consultant (and his team) and will go with whatever he suggests. Two other consultants have told me over the past 5 years that there is nothing that can be done after 2 discectomies and loads of other treatment and that I will get worse as I get older.

How on earth does anyone make up their mind about surgery? Obviously I'll be worried in case it goes wrong, but on the other hand, if it's successful then my quality of life will be so improved and my life choices won't be dictated by the pain in my back ALL the time! I'm 53 now and if I'm offered the surgery and don't take it, then I'm worried in case 10 years down the line, I wished I'd had it. Do you know what I mean?

If you have any views about the decisions you made about having surgery or not, and how long you were off work for, I'd like to hear them please.

Thanks guys/gals
2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!


  • good luck with your surgery {i may be having the same OR ADR myself soon } but depending on what your job is and how well you recover from surgery ..minimum i would say is 4 months if all goes well and if not it could be a very long time ..i myself have not been able to work for 13 years !!!!!!!!!!!!! and i am only 44 .
  • of how different an experience surgery is for everyone. I had open TLIF L4-S1 on Oct 5th 2009 and was back at work, full-time on Nov 2nd 2009. I'm also only 30, and was very active until just under 2 yrs ago when my back pain started to take over my life. I was terrified of having surgery, especially since it would be my first of any kind, ever. But the pain was so bad that by the time surgery was offered as my only choice I didn't hesitate. And by the time surgery time rolled around I couldn't wait because I just knew it would give me so much relief. And it has! 4 mo later and I'm going to the gym regularly, going hiking, etc., have been off all pain meds since I went back to work, and feel like I could basically do anything I want to (within reason of course.)

  • A PLIF is I think has a longer recovery time. It also depends on how many levels you have done. I had 2 done, and I was told from 4-6 months at the time. Everyone is different. I know they dont want you sitting only for bathroom and eating for the first three months. Except the obvious Dr Appts and such. I would ask your Dr, but I think that many times they underestimate the time it takes. Good Luck, Robin
  • Sue:

    It depends, I got the ALIF on L5-S1, I'm on the 15th day, my doctor said 4-6 weeks. Total time a year, but you can be back at work in 4-6 weeks this is for 1 level. I'm pushing to go back to work at week 4-5. I have a job thats understanding and its a desk job. My doctor said if I was blue collar job he said he would definatly say 6 weeks. I got the ALIF because you heal faster, but I heard the PLIF can have close to the same healing times can be months. It really depends on you and how you heal and how many levels are done. I'm 41. ;)

    If your new at your job, I would ask if you could work from home and tell them and see if their understanding about it.

    When I was at the hospital leaving, the nurse told me she talked to patients that had fusions and we're going back to work in 10 days. :O :S Thats insane and I could see why peoples fusions fail.
  • I'm having PLIF in April. L1 through L5 with no rods or screws (so the Dr. says). I'm not too sure what will happen when I'm on the operating table but he assure me that he can do it with no general anesthesia, only an epidural and the same stuff they give you for a colonoscopy. That sounded pretty good to me as I hate general anesthesia. I'm having a problem with getting a grip on how long it will take till I can do somethings by myself. I'm in good physical shape (exect for me back, of course) and plan to work out like crazy for the next month to be as strong as possible before surgery.

    Any info would be appreciated.

    I have severe DDD and scoliosis of the lumbar section and mild scoliosis on the thorasic section. Have been putting off surgery for 12 years and now it's a must if I don't want to affect other organs
  • Does the doc say you have to have it straight away? ie. is there any nerve involvement where there's a chance of permanent damage if not done straight away?
    Just a thought, if it's not urgent, perhaps you can hold off a while until your not so new to your job and can afford to take the time off without risk of losing your job?
    Just a thought
  • Hiya

    tahoegranny - I cannot believe you would have surgery without general anaesthetic, but there again, if there are other health issues then I suppose it's more than feasible.

    immyali - I don't suppose I would be offered any surgery 'straight away' (I don't think the NHS in the UK work that fast). However, if surgery is suggested by the consultant, then I would be worried about not taking it for two reasons:

    1) My job, although I've only been there just over one month, is actually making my pain worse (alot of bending at low level to reach children sitting down, very low chairs/tables for staff to work at etc.) and

    2) Surgery was an option many years ago, but by the time I went home and thought about it for a while, the consultant had left and also his second in command. The new consultant didn't want to go down that route and so I have had four and a half years of conservative treatment, which unfortunately has not helped much.

    So, considering everything - I find it difficult to do my job with my current back pain (although I persevere with weekly morhpine patches and extra morphine liquid when I need it). However, I cannot sustain this because this medication has taken away any appetite I had and now my doc is worried about my weight levels! There have been other side effects as well which I won't go into.

    I think the first thing I have to do is attend my review appointment (which I have just found out today is on 9 March), so it's not too long to wait. If my consultant says I'm a good candidate and offers me surgery because he feels it would help me, then I'm going for it. If he says I'm not, then I'll just have to carry on as best as I can and review my job situation in the future if it becomes too problematic.

    Hope everything is going OK with you all, and thanks for all your comments - it really does help you know!
    2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!
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