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Be honest tell me how you feel after your fusion and what to except

ellineellin Posts: 188
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:43 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hello all first, hope you are all doing well. I am going to go to another Dr. just for my sake. I am going to have a 3level fusion with plates and screws i have lots of quesions for my Dr. after looking at the quesions for Dr before surgery site here but, really would like all your info like how did you feel before surgery and after and what are all the things i am looking at after the surgery. My Dr. also is going to fuse the lower back when I heal do not know how long. I am a slow healer and very low tolerant of pain. Thx and look forward to hear from you all.


  • I'm not sure I understand your fusion - are you having your neck fused (3 level) and then sometime in the future also having a lumbar fusion?

    I had a 2-level lumbar fusion in July 2008. It's been a long road and it took 3 surgeries. Now, finally I am starting to feel like the old me is coming back. It's been a long 4 1/2 years since my accident, but for the first time I am finally going for days without back pain!

    I have a high pain tolerance level. I hate taking medication, particularly narcotics. I don't smoke (never have) and I exercise regularly. I think all these things helped me in my recovery. Not that I didn't have some extreme down times!

    Tell us more about your situation and I am sure more people can jump in here and comment.

    I would do my surgery again in a heartbeat - it saved me. I cannot imagine where I'd be right now if I'd not had a successful surgery.
  • It has been 11 months since my 3 level fusion of my mid/lower back. I had a great deal of pain before my surgery. I am a teacher and found that I was almost completely disabled after a long day at work. Cooking and cleaning at home made me miserable with a severe pain in my buttock and leg. The surgery I had last June was a major ordeal. I had a lot of pain, but the pain killers took care of them for the most part. I wore a large back brace for 4 months. I didn't clean house or cook for about 12 weeks. Since that time, however, I am feeling much better. The pain in my buttock and leg has disappeared. I am able to walk 3-4 miles with no pain at all. I have dropped 30 lbs. I feel human again. This is not a surgery to take lightly. Enter into it with all seriousness and full expectation that it will take some time to recover from. If your surgeon does a good job, you will be glad you went through it all. It did vastly improve my situation. I wish you a lot of luck.
  • told me that recovery would be THREE years AND he also said that with a multi level fusion yes it would stabilise the spine BUT i would still have some pain and would almost spend my life on pain medication ..so as you can imagine i am reluctant to go ahead with the surgery {three other surgeons have told me NOT to have the surgery as it would be a big mistake ..so that's my input
  • I had a lumbar decompression and fusion with interbody cage and screws and rods 6 weeks ago.
    I was expecting it to be horrendous pain wise, but it hasn't been nearly as bad as I thought. I have had some complications though. I needed a transfusion straight after surgery and then my incision didn't heal properly and then developed an infection. I have only just been able to take the dressing off. I have also had a TIA (mini stroke) scare last week, but was given the all clear after CT scan of brain plus lots of other tests. I still feel that I am doing very well and am feeling much better than before surgery.

    There are so many elements to recovering from this big surgery, that there are lots of areas where things can develop problems, but the medical team generally know what to do to deal with them, then you can get under way again.

    The recovery will take a long time (especially lumbar) and you need to have lots of patience.

    I wish you well. Let us know how you get on :-)
  • Ellin, good morning! I only had the L5S1 level fused, but I feel I can comment anyhow. Like Saltzworks, I would do the surgery again. However, and I know you've already heard this a lot, this is a real big deal surgery and the seriousness of the recovery really cannot be overstated. In the hospital, for me, the pain was really stunning! I've never experienced anything like that..not to scare ya, but you asked. Eight days in hospital totally unable to get out of the bed or even move about in bed. However, once I got home the pain became manageable more quickly than I would have expected. I only occasionally took any pain meds and never refilled the pain prescriptions they gave me.

    Now here I am almost six months after surgery. In that time, I feel a ton better than before surgery. I still have a tender back, can't lift anything heavy at all and I am still not able to go back to work. I guess my biggest advice about this whole fusion would be to know that it can be a total life changing event. Not all for the bad..in my case the life change has been almost as good as the physical benefits from surgery. Just be aware that you're jumping into the deep end of the pool, so ya better know how to swim!! Hey, if I could handle it, surely anyone can.

  • Hi Ellin. Hope you are managing well. It's been 5 weeks since my op ACDF C4/5 C5/6. I woke up in recovery and rated the pain about 8/10 and was put on percocet for pain.I have to wear a hard collar for 6 wks. Less than an hr. after surgery I was on my feet walking around the ICU. It totally depends on you and the type of surgery you are having. I myself can tolerate pain and only take the pain meds when I really feel the need for them.
    I have numbness in my hands due to nerve damage from the discs pinching the spinal cord and nerves. The surgeon told me they can't tell how much damage there is and if the operation will make this any better. The only thing he guaranteed was that this would keep me out of a wheelchair.
    I have had no improvement in my hands and my neck feels uncomfortable and tence at times but for the most part I feel pretty good. Just think positive. My thoughts are with you.
  • Like others have mentioned everyone is different. I was in a lot of pain before I had surgery and did all the non-surgical treatments with no success. I had an L4-S1 fusion, so I have 6 screws, 2 rods, and two cages. I feel great! Not 100% pain free...but way better than I did before the surgery! My pain is now down to about a 2-3. I went back to work half-days 5 weeks ago and am now back to work full-time. My job is not physically demanding, a lot of sitting, but I get up and move around as much as possible. I still can't do any heavy lifting, but I can take care of most household chores. I just make sure that I am careful with everything I do. I stopped taking pain meds a couple of days ago and so far so good. I wish you the best of luck...this was the best decision I ever made!

    Take care,

  • Greetings,
    Im 7 weeks post op from a discetomy and TILF with instrumentation of L5/S1.

    Being honest my hospital stay was horrible. I have a high pain tolerance and the pain when moving and the first few times having to get up for PT and walking..I was moaning the entiring time. Come day 3 I could get up and walk with minimal moaning and was able to deal. I think the pain initally takes you off guard.

    Once I got home the first week was home because you dont have people waiting on you hand and foot like you do in the hospital. Family is great but...But being home I felt more at ease to recover and heal. I was in comfotable surroundings that really helped.

    I went back to work PT week 6 and being who I am I pushed it a little too much so I have cut my PT hrs this week even more. I wasnt able to drive until 6 weeks but no more then 30 mins. But it wasnt until then that I was a good passenger. you feel every bump.

    My advice....You have to take baby steps and remember that each day is a new day. Its a huge ordeal and you have to take care of yourself.
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    any intelliegent answers:

    What are your symptoms (both cervical and lumbar).

    What medications are you on - have you tried?

    What conservitive treatments have you attempted (P.T.- T.E.N.S.- etc).

    What were the cause(s)of your condition(s)(age - Auto accident)?

    What kind of diagnostic tests have been done and what did they say.

    What is your general state of health (both physical and mental - do you have any concurrent medical conditions).

    Me? I could not stand the pain or arm problems (pain - weakness - parathesia) before my first 3 level ACDF - but it failed. I again could not stand the pain or arm problems before my second 4 level ACDF with vertebrectomies - cage - and posterior rods - bone harvested from hip. Today I still have pain and arm problems - managed by medication - have some really cool scars and some great stories to tell. I can still walk, control my bladder and bowels, and move my arms at will. The previous four listed items were in jepordy had I not had the above mentioned surgeries. I am just short of two years since my last set of surgeries.

    Keep asking questions! So will I - as the more we know - the more we know.


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  • Thanks for the information, My story well, do not know how all this happend i can blame it tho on lots of differnt things, I just had back pain for years and it got so bad I went to have the injections epiderals, facet, nerve burns, only for them not to work. I even went to other pm Dr's and did not tell them i had the shots thinking maybe the one Dr, did not do the right spot only for me to be to have thin skin and brusing from all the steriods, my ins has been great no denial. I have even gone for the non steriod treatment which they inject tramel which also did nada i have tried tens unit i have one i bourhgt a back to life machine did nada massage every wk which helps for a day or ttwo physical therpay did nada I now started getting pain in my trap area and only got worse dr told me just a mussle pull well that was in 2001 now my neck is worse than my back on oxycontin 20mg taking 80-100mg a day yes lots of mg this is the only way i can live work or anything it does not get me high just out of pain. I never wanted surgery for my back was to scared thought i would be in a wheel chair first well, my mind is so full of dealing with this pain I went to a nuro dr fist he told me i needed surgery i left in tears went to mayo and spoke to a nuro surgon and he said well we could see if a spinal cord stim will help but for the back but neck needs surgery still not wanting this another ? time goes by and i am tired of living like this so went to another nurosurgon and he told me i am a mess need 3 level fusion with spacer and plates and screws in my neck and after i heal he want to do the lower back. I have a date of May 21st for my neck and i am going to cancel it. I feel i need one more opinion and think i found a really good Dr. come to find out my massage lady told me of this dr. A spine health yes one of you who live here had her surgery done by him and one of my coworkers who i do not talk to had her surgery done by him. Wish i could talk to this coworker about her outcome but that is not an option So my friend here is my short story Lol
  • Hi Ellin

    Sorry to hear about your pain. It sounds like you are very unsure and even a bit confused by what is going on. First suggestion is to get a notebook. Write down all of the things you have tried with as much info as you can remember. Then start keeping a journal of your pain.

    Treatment and surgery should be based on two things. First what you are feeling and second something that you may not feel but could cause permanent damage. Have you been to a neurologist? That is the person who diagnoses your problem. For example you say one part of your arm hurts and they trace it back to the coorespoding nerve and vertebra and look to the mri to see what is causing the pain. Sometimes they find cord compression that might not be causing you pain but could be a risk for permanent damage.

    You mentioned all kinds of treatment but not tests. Have you had an MRI, CT scan, EMG, mylegram or other tests? IF so what did they show? I'm still not getting a good understanding of what is wrong and what the surgeon hopes to acheive with this surgery. Sounds like you aren't sure either. I agree that you should postpone surgery until you are 100% confident about doing this.
  • I have lower spine mri have had one every year for the past 9 years

    findingsL3-4 protrusion stenois disc L4-5 dic protursion L4-5 disc protrusion displacing the adjacent s1 nerve root

    annular at L4-5
    L4 L5 degenerative disc disease

    L5 S1 degenerative disc disease
    osteoarthritis at facet joints degenerative disc disease disc protrusion


    C2-C3no abnormalities

    C3-C4 mild peripheral osteophyic ridging the facet articulations are unremarkale. no disc herniation mmild neural foraminal narrowing bilaterally, slightly worsened right and left

    C4C5 broad based disc bulge associated with peripheral osteophytic ridging> right sided foraminal narrowing and mild leftsided forminal narrowing facet arthropathy.

    C5C6 moderate size bulge and disc space narrowing associated peripheral osteophyic ridging facet arthropathy disc bulge abuts the ventral aspect of the cord but without mass effect upon it neural foraminal narrowing bilaterally

    C6 C7 disc bulge facet diasease

    ok their the reports are. I tried to get a EMG and I could not handle the test so the Dr. just went off the MRI flims he did not even look at the report. Most other Drs I have been to just look at the report that is why i was thinking this Dr. is good. O my just found out the Dr. that I wanted to go to does not take my Ins. so their went that. They told me that the ins. lady can talk to me about my out of network benifts. I am at 100 percent now on my in network that is why I would like to have at least my neck done before my year is up which is Oct. first. I have been like I said to a nuro. Dr. first not nuro surgon who told me i need surgery. I was not close to being ready. I have been to two nuro surgons and both want to do surgery. I need just to get one more Dr. to see.
  • Ellin,

    I can't help you determine if surgery is right for you. I will answer your question, though, about my lumbar fusion - TLIF with instrumentation at L5/S1.

    My doctor forewarned me to expect the following after surgery: 3 days of unbelievable pain; 3 weeks of intense pain; and 3 months of off and on pain. He just about nailed it for me. Day of my surgery was my best day because I had a PCA (pump). Day 1 after surgery was my worst when they disconnected the pump and I really felt the pain. However, they adjusted my oral meds to get me reasonably comfortable. Day 2 I went home because I couldn't sleep with all of the noise in the hospital. The next two weeks were tough getting around the house; even to go to the bathroom. However, I did see rapid improvement in pain. At the end of week 2, I was pleasantly surprised by how much my pain had diminished and I significantly stepped down my pain meds.

    Now the bad part -- from weeks 5 through 15, I have had no improvement in pain. In fact, I have the same pain as before surgery, but it is more intense. They think it could be related to scar tissue, it could be nerve pain (neuro-pathic pain), or it could be that I just need more time with ongoing physical therapy.

    My 2 cents worth of advice is to make sure that your doctor clearly understands your history of what worked and what didn't work to-date. I think they tend to skip over some of that and it puts you at risk of repeating certain treatments or even having them do a procedure that isn't necessary. In my case, now that they are treating me for neuropathic pain and I am seeing some improvements, that probably suggests that my fusion may have been avoidable. After my previous surgery, a discectomy, my original surgeon thought that I might have neuropathic pain. I wonder if my current surgeon ever noticed that, even though I thought I made it very clear. I think they tend to dismiss all other opinons besides their own, but that's just my opinion!

    Best wishes, Ellin. I know you are really hurting and I feel for you!

  • I feel great. No more pain. After 8 years of dealing with all the B.S. that comes with pinched nerves, I am so content already 4 months out of fusion surgery. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

    L4 L5 Fusion January 7th, 2010
  • I am 9 weeks post op from a 360 L4-5 fusion. My surgeon choose a 360, which is both anterior and posterior, as he considers me "young" (I'm in my 40's), the success rate is 95% and I am very athletic and active.

    It is a heck of a surgery and initially very difficult to go through~and I'm tough and able to tolerate a lot of pain.

    If I could do one thing over, I wouldn't have waited so long. I just didn't realize how bad I had gotten. I thought about the expense to my family, my time away from work (I don't have any and I work with medically fragile infants). I wondered how my family would function without me, my husband travels.

    Then I started falling and I quickly declined.

    My hospital experience was very difficult. It it a bloddy surgery, and my iron was low going in as I was in so much pain, I wasn't eating well.

    I required 3 blood transfusions. I did great the day of surgery, was up walking the halls. The nurses couldn't believe it!

    But, by the next day, things went down hill quickly! I had pneumonia PLUS pluresy which is an inflammation of the lining of the lungs.

    I was in the hospital for 6 days, my care was aweful, but at the time, I didn't realize. It was my family and friends that realized. I was on moriphine.

    Once I got home, things quickly improved. I am walking a couple of miles everyday or I exercise in the pool. I started PT at 2 weeks out which I am very thankful for.

    I came home with a walker but I didn't need it. It was easier to just accept it than to argue with the hubby (I had pneumonia~didn't have the energy to argue).

    I also have a raised toilet seat which I still use.

    I can now do light housekeeping, shopping and driving short distances.

    I am decreasing my meds. Some days are easier than others. But, I am a "over~doer" which I am trying hard to do correct and allow some things to "not get done"! So I now schedule my rest times into my day.

    Overall, I would do it again in a heart beat! I can now walk, put my clothes on and I am beginning to slowly be able to do the things that I enjoy!

    Returning to work will be a challenge for me as my job is physically demanding. But, I love my work, so I am confident that I will over come the challenge with time! And without surgery I would not be able to work!

    If you choose to have this surgery, it is so important to have confidence in your surgeon. There will be times that you question everything, there is NO turning back, so you have to be sure!

    For me, this surgery has been life changing! There have been moments during this journey that my life has been shaped for the better. There are body mechanics that I have picked up and made a habit for life ie bending, lifting, etc.

    Good luck and let us know how you are doing. Feel free to PM with any questions.
  • Wow you guys are awsome. I am scared about them cutting my neck and dying on the table I think that is really freaking me out. Jugler their spine cord. I feel tho it is worth the gamble for the pain I am in. I am so ready for the pain to be gone I will even take 50 percent hope its more tho. Real bummer that this other Dr. did not take my ins. I have met a spinie here and she has given me some Dr. info you guys are AWSOME!!!! I will keep you updated> hope you all have a great day.
  • I was so scared before my first spinal surgery! I wasn't his first surgery of the day, so I had a long wait. I was alone because the area as it was too small for my hubby to be there (so they said).

    I just kept thinking of all the possiblities that could go wrong.

    Then this very handsome :) young man came in and started putting electrodes on my legs, arms, chest and when I was asleep, in my head.

    There are atleast 2 people who monitor your spinal cord a on a computer that these electrodes are attached to. If the surgeon gets too close too something or, if something is in the wrong place, it will alarm!

    Knowing this helped me so much!

    Not every surgeon uses this, but you can definately ask if yours does.

    The other thing that I have learned by reapeat visits to the OR :) you can ask the anethesiologist for something in preop to help your nerves. I did this time and I barely remember preop!

    You can also ask for something to help calm your nerves as you wait for the days to pass. You can ask your surgeon, your primary doc or your pain management doc, if you have one.

    It is very normal to have these feelings. I had them also this time. It helped me to talk about it. The great thing about this forum is we have all been there and we are a safe place to vent! :-)

    Hang in there! Waiting is the hardest part! You will feel so much beter when you are on the other side!
  • Oh you guys are awsome!!! I just wanted to update you on what I have done. I canceled my surgery for the 21st of this month may. I made an appt. with another Dr. this one is an ortho Dr. his front desk appt lady on the phone was awsome. I told her a bit about me and she said you will love this Dr. he will take time with you that his nurse has to get him moving because he talks lots and his surgery sucess rate is high. She has worked for him for 13 years. ok so have an appt with this new Dr. on the 16th of June. If this goes well than I will schedule the surgery with him if not and I feel better with the nuro surgon i will call and reschedule with him. I will let you all know and a big thx you to all of you
  • -----on your decision. These operations have high success rates. You just need to get thru the first 3 weeks. The surgery is easy, you are a sleep. Worse part for me was the 9 sticks to get a good IV.

    Read as many posts as you can on your surgery and remember for every 1 bad experience there are 10 positive not even posted. Read up on what you need when you get home, grabbers, toilet seat risers, etc. I had lower back surgery, so the neck may have different requirements post-op. I even rented a medical bed since we have two stories. Helped a lot.

    Good Luck,

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