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Fusion or Not ?

dcassddcass Posts: 6
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:42 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello everyone. I'm in a position where I have to make a decision.

I was in a serious car accident 2 and a half years ago. As a result I received three heriated discs (L3-S1). Last January I had a Hemi-Laminectomy and a Microdiscectomy on my L5-S1 disc. After surgury I felt worse. New pain on my left side (surgery was on right). After a post surgical MRI it showed a cyst on my left facet joint. I went through 2 facet joint injections (frigin killed like hell), didnt do anything. Had three edidural injections, didnt do anything.

So, saw a new Neurosugeon last Wednesday, she said that since all of the procedures I've had didnt do anything and I still have lower back pain and neuro stuff in my hamstrings,calves, and feet then surgury would be the next option. She is concerned that because I already had surgury on my right side that if had surgury on my left side it potentionally weaken that entire level.

So, I'm going to see another Neurosugeon in the next two weeks that specializes in instrumentation (Fusion Guy). They are looking at doing a single level maybe a two level fusion.

Doc that I saw last Wednesday says it would be better do go in and do the cyst removal and fusion at the same time, rather than removal now and likely fusion in the future. I'm only 38 so I guess the recovery would be better now than when I'm 50 or 60 years old?? I know its a big procedure and a slow recovery.

I'm really not looking forward to a fusion with all of the stories that I read about. Does anybody have an insight on my decision? I've been taking Percocet for the last year and a half, and just started taking Lyrica last month. I know I dont want to be taking these meds for the rest of my life. I want to start interacting with my kids before they grow up and I miss it (11,8,5 years old)

What to do????


  • I would get as many opinions as it takes for you to
    a) be as comfortable with your decision either way as you can be
    b)find a doctor that you have confidence in and a have a good rapport with
    As you are aware once you have a fusion there is no going back.
    I had a fusion last August and I don't consider it a success, I have a 4 yr old and 6 yr old and it definitely has changed how I interact with them as I cannot do any of the physical activities they want to do (thankfully my husband can fill in the gaps there). I have just redefined what mummy and girls do together ie. cooking, craft stuff, playing with toys etc. Children adapt remarkably well to new situations and whilst you may feel immense guilt for not being able to do what you used to be able to do with them, I assure you they don't feel the same way.
    The other thing to bear in mind is that there are success stories out there, but the ones who've had successful fusions don't tend to stick around and post on this forum as they don't need the support that we do.
    There will be people more knowledgable than myself who will be able to assist you in your quest for deciding whether to proceed or not, but i would seek multiple opinions if it was me.
    All the best and keep us posted on what you decide to do.
  • I would suggest you also get an opinion from a fellowship-trained orthopedic spinal surgeon in addition to the neurosurgeon. They have similar training but sometimes approach things slightly differently.

    Once you have done your research and feel confident that fusion is the only solution to your issues, then only you can make the decision. At this point, I do not think it is clear that you only have the one option.

    I'm curious why the first neurosurgeon does not perform fusions. It is a very standard procedure.
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    I just had an L3-S1 fusion by my Orthopedic Spine Surgeon. Personally, for me, I've had the most luck with Orthopedic Spine Surgeons.

    The L3-S1 fusion, if that is what you are facing, is challenging. But if it helps I will tell you now that 5 weeks post-op I am really just aching at times. Not really pain, expect for some bursts at some times. The first week at home was tough.

    My fusion was posteriolateral. The hardware removal from my prior fusion was done from the back. So I have a 6" vertical incision going down my back. The lateral portion was to put a device between L3 and L4. That required a 4" horizontal incision on my left hip. Some people have the entire thing done from the back, others have a 360 where they go in from the front and the back. Since I had a lateral incision it affected my intestines so I could not eat for a few days (anytime you have that type of incision or abdominal incision it can cause the intestines to shut down a bit).

    I have a brace I wear whenever I am upright for more than a few minutes (don't need it when using bathroom, showing, or just getting a snack from the kitchen). It's the picture you see next to my name/post.

    So yes, 5 weeks later I say it was a good idea. Today after we got home from the doctor's office and I had the brace off for a bit and I realized that I had an ache, but not pain. I took one vicodin and one muscle relaxant and for a few minutes, but not due to "pain". It's stressful at times. Some nights I have weird sleeping times, hubby is sleeping in the guest room, but I am able to lay back, let him kind of keep the house clean and just take it easy so I can rest.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • See how you go with the second neurosurgeon, and if you're not happy with what he says, then get another opinion from a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon as suggested by Gwennie. It's important that you do as much research as possible before committing to surgery.

    I'm nearly 5 months post-op L4/5 ALIF and whilst I don't know if I've fused/fusing, I'm getting my life back again and it's sooooo good to be able to walk without pain and to be out in the fresh air. The recovery period is slow and can be frustrating at times, but with good support around you, you'll be fine. I have to do some things differently now, but that's ok.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
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