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ALIF Recovery Time Relative to PLIF?

birdpdxbbirdpdx Posts: 4
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:42 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I'm sure someone has posted about a similar topic before but I'm having a hard time locating exactly what I need. I'm really glad I've found this forum. It's been a really frustrating 10 years of my life without anybody around who knows what I'm going through.

I just turned 27 and had my PLIF at L5-S1 for sponylolisthesis when I was 23. I was misdiagnosed and improperly treated for 5 years prior to that, which was pretty awful.

Since 2005 my fusion has failed- I have at least one screw loosening and obvious pseudarthrosis. I'm in more pain now than I was before my last fusion. And my last fusion was a hellish recovery, and obviously it was all for nothing, which only compounds my frustration. I've spent more than a third of my life in chronic pain and I'm just tired of it.

I'm scheduled for an ALIF in three weeks. At the same level- L5-S1.

I'm wondering if anybody can give me personal experiences regarding the difference in recovery for both surgeries- ideally someone who has had both at different times. I've read a lot of accounts from people who have had 360's done, but no direct comparisons between different fusions years apart. My PLIF involved hardware and a bone graft, with bone taken from my hip (which was extra painful).

Luckily I have a job where I work from home so I don't have to worry about jumping back into a busy life before I'm ready.

But I'd like to know- what would you put a timeline at for your abilities post-op?

For example, at what point did you feel confident going out with friends or just generally getting out of the house? What time did you feel comfortable spending extended periods in a car (I'm thinking ~4 hours or so). When did you feel comfortable being away from home for more than a day? Etc. Basically I want to know when you felt comfortable having any kind of life outside of home.

Obviously my post-op recovery needs pull rank on any "fun time" plans I'd like to make (or have already made, actually). I certainly don't mean to trivialize the importance of this- believe me, I'm taking this REALLY seriously. But after my last recovery spent 3,000 miles from any friends or support group, I'd like to skip a lot of the whole post-op depression misery part and get involved in my life again as soon as physically possible.

So... any thoughts?


  • I have been in your spot. I had a 2 level PLIF (L2-L4) and 6 years later I am 3 1/2 months in recovery from a 2 level ALIF (L4-S1).

    I can tell you that my recovery from the ALIF has been so much easier than the PLIF. I still have pain, but its more of an achey feeling. This time around I have had to wear a brace (which stinks) but that is because my surgeon is being very conservative and wants the best possible outcome for me.

    With the PLIF I was in excruciating pain and when those Physical Therapists came in the first few times it was hell. I could barely move with a walker.

    With the ALIF I was up and out of bed, by myself and walking around, the P. Therapist said I didn't really need her I was doing so well.

    This time I was given the OK to drive on day 10, though the brace makes it very uncomfortable. The difference between these 2 surgeries, for me, has been night and day. However, I am still on pain meds, slowly tapering off on the good days, but I still start my day with the heating pad as I am stiff, which is to be expected with 4 levels of metal in there.

    You have youth on your side to help you heal. As for the travelling in a car for 4 hours: the other day I was driving for 2 hours and it totally drained me, but we are all different. I have 2 kids (5 & 8), so I've been staying close to home anyway.

    Hope I have been helpful. Feel free to PM me if you need to chat some more.

    Take care, Lisa
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