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L4 -L5 Fusion Who Has Had A Lumbar Fusion? Need Advice

NatelleNNatelle Posts: 7
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:44 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi, I am scheduled for surgery the 14th L4-L5 fusion.
Everyday, I awake questioning, do I, don't I ---- blah blah blah.

Some days, I am dying and would have the surgery in a second, the next I think, I can deal with this. Day by day, I can, but each day turn into a week etc (yall know how that goes) I want to feel better and not just get by. Some days are really very good.

I keep questioning. So I have finally determined and I hope that I am right, I get approximately 10 years feeling better from this surgery. Well, I hope.

The ending results will be the two disc above and below will blow..........so then I think,,,why am I doing this, if I know that?

Does that mean in the next ten years I lose another 2....eventually my entire Lumbar will have to be fused, little by little?

I am not sure how to make the right decision.

With the Hippa Law, I can't talk to patients.......so I am on my own.

I also did that once and went the 100 thousand laser NEW wonderful way.........and was told that was a scam and here I am doing it the old fashioned way..

Can anyone help me make sense and help me know what kind of future I am looking at.

Should the surgery help that much?

Thanks, Natelle


  • I would say go for it, but review your surgeon, check him/her out first. The biggest danger with the surgery is that they could damage your nerves to your feet, which means, it makes the bottoms of them go numb, so a good surgeon is a must.

    Be brave and go through with it, you will notice a change straight after the operation, as the pain will change.

    At this point of time, I would say I am happy with my progress so far.

    Hope this helps.

  • fusion, but after a year and a half of recovery, I can say I'd do it again. The pain before surgery was horrendous. It's nearly all gone now. I just have some stiffness and achiness now and then, plus I have a numb right foot. I'll take this over the pain any day.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • Hi Natelle,

    On March 15, I had an ALIF L4/S1, and double laminectomy L4/L5. I'm still very, very early in the recovery process, and the surgeon says I'll have to have more surgery in the future, but I can honestly say that even though I'm still hurting, I feel 10x better than before surgery. I'd do it all over again in a New York minute.

    You should consider how much the pain affects your everyday life. Are you still able to function? Are you dependent daily on painkillers just to do the basic tasks at home?

    Any surgical procedure carries its own risks, and those are things you should consider when deciding if surgery is the right thing for you. I'm sure many people on here who've been in terrible pain for a long time will agree with me when I say that for us, the potential benefits outweighed the risks. But definitely DO NOT go through with surgery if you're not sure it's what you want to do--- because it'll be too late after the fact.

    Your surgeon has probably already told you that no matter how skilled they are with a scalpel, nothing they do is guaranteed to get rid of your pain completely. I've talked to some people who've had fusions before, and a couple of them were under the false impression that the fusion would eliminate their back pain. I was glad my surgeon told me that even though I should notice a great reduction in my pain level, it wouldn't be completely gone.

    Before surgery, on a scale of 1-10, my pain was at an 8..sometimes it'd be like a 12. Now, it's around a 5..occasionally it will go back up to a 9 or 10, but that's because I'm still healing. So yes, I still hurt, but I don't mind dealing with it because it's a lot less than before.

    I know everyone's individual situations can be different, so I'm just speaking from the stuff I've been through. My surgeon did ask me what I'd like to be able to after surgery. I said I knew my days as a runner were over, and I wouldn't be able to go back into taekwondo anymore. I added that if he could get me to where I could just go walking, do light exercise, chores around the house, and be able to do stuff with my daughter, I'd be happy as a clam. He told me that was great, because he generally would not do a fusion on someone with unrealistic expectations about what surgery could do for them. So in other words, I couldn't go wakeboarding, water skiing, cave exploring, or do taekwondo.

    What I had to give up, along with the potential hazards involved with surgery, was worth me risking. If I went through with surgery, there was a chance I could die, get a blood clot (which did happen, but thankfully is ok for now), etc. I knew that by NOT going through with it, though, I'd have a 100% chance of hurting. But, another important deciding factor for me was that I had some things wrong that, if I DIDN'T go through with surgery, would have affected my ability to walk.

  • I am 13 weeks post 360 L4-5 fusion. I would do it all over again as I am getting my life back. I am not sure how old you are. I am in my mid 40's and this is my 3rd lumbar surgery in 4 years, trying to avoid a fusion.

    Before my surgery, little by little I had given up all activities in my life! Not just modifying my activities~but giving them up! I wasn't able to walk more than 5-10 feet at a time. Sometimes I would have to stop, sometimes I would have silent tears running down my face, sometimes I would scream involuntarily as the neve got caught on the jagged edge of the facet joints.

    I started falling. Not losing my balance and waobbling~ but flat out falling on my face! One monent I was walking, then next I was flat on the ground on my face!

    I wasn't able to work, do things with my family, sit on the sofa, etc.

    As others have said, you want to have total confidence in your surgeon. There is no going back! There is no guarentee that you will be painfree after surgery, but that was fine with me! I wanted my legs back!

    I HAVE my legs back!! :) I started PT 2 weeks after surgery and I have fought hard to get stronger, and I am!

    Now, I am working my way back to work! It will be difficult, but I will get there!

    I am not painfree, but I am much, much better! And I am early in my recovery! I still have at least 9 months to go! :)

    There is no guarntee that you will need another fusion. My hubby had a L5-S1 fusion 10+ years ago and he has no problems! No pain, weakness, nothing!

    To help avoid the strain on the level below and the ones above, you will want to modify your activies and your body mechanics.

    Talk with your surgeon! You want to be able to have an open communication with him! We are here for you too! To offer our personal experiences and suggestions, and to cheer you on!

    Wishing the best for you!
  • It is a difficult decision...no doubt. But is you have exhausted all other conservative means without success, this surgery is an option that I know I had to consider.

    Yes, there are risks. So you must weigh the bad and the good. In medicine we call it risk vs. benefit. In my own personal experience I called it rolling the dice. But my options had run out.

    So here I am 6 months out. I do feel more stability in my spine, as well as flexibility. My fusion is not going as fast as some, but with a little help, I feel confident that it will happen over the next 6 months.

    How old are you? What kind of work do you do?

    One day you will wake up, and you will have clarity about your decision. When that day comes, it is like the weight of the world is taken off your shoulders. Then you can start to move forward.

    Good luck,


  • I has fusion, XLIF l4/5 7 weeks ago and have returned to work. Sore and tired after a full day, but radiculopathy is gone and pain is 70% better. Wish I had done it 2 years ago and would do it again in a heartbeat. I have my life back. Andy
  • About 12 weeks is a huge turning point!! I know now that it really does take 9-12 months to really feel better. You will find that flexibility beginning to return. I remember feeling like a mannequin until that point...it is a really good feeling to have that fluidity in your body back. Just take the next 3 months slow and easy...steady as she goes!!!

    I'm so proud for both of you!!!!

  • Oh my gosh, yall are incredible!!!
    I can't thank you all for all of the stories and information, encouragement and facts.

    This place and yall rock :)

    Wheew, reading all of the post made me believe I am doing the right thing. I feel so much better. I can't wait for my husband to get home and read this too.

    So one called me today, after my pre op appointment. I was feeling confident...the phone rang and she said...pain doctor forever, never bend, you will be sorry. Of course, I made a call and said, I was feeling good about this today BUT guess who called.....so than we kinda of dicounted her but the thoughts kept nagging.

    Then here I am and what a great fresh upbeat wonderful bunch of support and encouragement I have here.

    What a difference you all have made. Thank you all so very much for all the time and effort it takes to write all that. It is honestly appreciately so very much.

    To answer two question (brain injury makes me forget but I think there are only two). I am 46 and I am a secretary.

    Yall are fabulous...and you all deserve to be doing as well as you are :)
  • if your 46 and have a secretary job, with proper physical activity their is a good chance you will never need another surgery.

    7 weeks ago I had a axialif 2L... its a double level fusion, but they also take a 15mm drill bit and drill UP thru 3 vertebre from behind your tail bone and insert a double level rod to restore disk height. then made 2 more incisions on my back to do facet screws and pedicle screws.

    Before surgery I can tell you how I felt was very similiar to you, but I also live a very active lifestyle and was no longer living, just surviving and being tied to the medicine cabinet with my growing opiat addiction was no way to live.

    if I wasn't scared enough, some lady comes in and talkes to us and tells us we will never be able to bend again, twist, nothing.... now I was really ready to just call everything off. I AM GLAD I DID NOT.

    At 7 weeks, with all the hardware in me, I have far greater mobility then the stupid lady who talked to me said I would have. I can only imagine how much more I will have back in the months to come. I have a bodybuilding background (not just lift in a gym, but actually on stage competing)... I was terrified to loose that.

    I am now in the gym 5x a week, at about 40%, just dont wanna push too hard, too fast.... the only pain I have left on a everday basis is the incision over the 3 pedicle screws. the surgeon feels my muscle is so dense that it is really being irratated by the screws (main reason we had to do a axialif in the first place, less invassive)... so in a year once my fusion is complete, if they are still bothering me he said they may need to come out, but its a outpatient type visit.

    I am 32 years old, and I know their is a possibility that I may need another surgery in my life. My surgeon was also one of the best in the nation (he is the surgeons, surgeon)..and told me, yes there is a chance you will be back in for another fusion, but their is a chance you will not. the S1-L4 area does not have alot of mobility to begin with, so there will not be a ton of added stress to the vertebre around it... now if it was a cervix disc or mid back, he would be concerned.


    Sorry about the caps, but I can not stress that part enough. (I have a kenesiology background, along with nutrition)... if I can be of any help, or suggestions or advice, you can call me anytime.

    p.s. the fun part is learning how to wipe your butt again after surgery. LOL LOL LOL LOL
  • The surgery was absolutely the best decision for me! I was in so much pain for many years and now I feel so much better. I am not 100% and still have some little aches and pains, but nothing even close to what I had before. You won't regret it!

    Good luck and I wish you all the best...

  • HI I am 12 weeks post L5 S1 360 fusion and it was the hardest decision I had to make but I am 100% better. I have no low back pain and no sciatica!! I agree about getting the best surgeon. I traveled 3 hrs to NYC and paid out of network benefits but worth every penny!! I went back to work full time with restrictions at 8 weeks and I am a nurse. It was hard but getting easier every day. You just need to make the decision, focus, move foward and don't look back!!Good luck. Lynette
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    I have had a bunch of surgeries and I do them all again. I had an L4-S1 fusion in 1993 and it took 17 years for me to need the one I had this past February. And, it wasn't that the disc had gone bad I just had my typical spondylolisthesis again where the L3 vertebrae went forward but I've never had disc problems after my fusions. If you take care of your body after surgery you may lessen the chances of further problems, though nothing is guaranteed.

    For me it's always a quality of life choice. I spent from May 2009 to February 2010 laying down most days so I had to have the surgery. I'm still recovering but I can be up much more than I could before and am enjoying time in our RV this summer.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • Hi Natelle, I hate to be the downer but you must know it does not always have a happy ending. I had a PLIF l4-s1 on 8/31/09 the day after surgery I had more nerve pain then pre-op. My doc said it was probably nerves waking up and should settle down over the next couple of weeks. 2 weeks later I was put on Neurontin for the nerve pain. I started PT at about 3-4 weeks which did no good at all, no progress. at 2 1/2 months my surgeon did a ct myelogram and found a bone spur pressing on my l5 and s1 nerve roots. I had surgery on 12/4/09 to remove the spurs. I started PT at 4 weeks post op, it did make me a bit stronger but also increased the pain. I am now in pain management taking Norco 10/325 up to 3 times a day as needed, Neurontin 2700 mg per day, Tizanadine up to 3 times a day for muscle spasms and wear a Fentanyl patch 25 mcg hr. I have had 2 steroid injections with no relief, since the injections i have started getting migraines. I will have CT's and MRI's from the head to the tailbone next Wednesday to look for possible causes of my continuing back, and new head pain as well as the numbness and tingling in my left leg,foot and some toes.I was 45 in August and am 46 now, I was a secretary but have not worked since my first surgery. I was approved for my SSDI effective Feb of 2010. I can walk about 500 feet with my cane then need my walker to complete a 1/2 mile walk.Beyond that I need my scooter.
    I cant tell you what to do, no one can, I just wanted you to hear the other side so you can make an informed decision.
    I believe results like mine are not the norm, but it does happen.
    Like everyone else said, know and trust your surgeon, Get a second and third opinion, do your research and make your decision.
    I will keep you in my prayers,
    God bless and keep you,
  • Yes, there are both sides to fusion and I'm one of the lucky ones who have their life back again. I'm 7.1/2 months out from an ALIF L4-5.

    My surgeon read the "riot act" to me on the first visit and I had to bring my family in on the next one to discuss risks. I knew I couldn't live with the pain for the rest of my life. After I made the decision for surgery, there were some good days and I was sure I wouldn't need surgery but when I focused on the bad ones, I knew I needed help.

    The levels either side of my fusion aren't too good, but my surgeon said he didn't want to fuse them, so I think it's a wait and see situation, and I can live with the pain/discomfort from L5-S1. I have two friends who have had fusions and they haven't needed further surgery. Core strengthening exercises at an appropriate time after surgery are essential.

    My surgeon aims for an 80% - 90% reduction in pain and I fall into that category.

    Recovery involves total commitment and adhering to the BLT restrictions and there were many times I had to readjust my attitude.

    I hope all goes well for you on the 14th and do check back in and let us know how you go.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • Thank you Mavrick,
    Reading your story is a great inspiration also.

    Every time I visit here, I feel so much better, not the back but my brain feels better about the tourmenting decision process I have been suffering with :)

    Thank you for taking the time and I am very happy you are doing so well.

    I have questioned how will I be able to clean after surgery.

    After I went to the Laser Institute to get the WONDERFUL Laser procedure.....three disc were (we don't think they did much but a steriod shot) but I was in agony. I could hardly move.

    I just think that was a bad place to go but I could not bend.

    So I suppose the nurses will show me how to reach my butt...or I will be calling my friends and finding out who my REAL friends are (wink)
  • Thank you for your thoughts and experience.
    A few aches and pains, I would like most of you would.

    I hope I do as well as you all are :)
  • mommatialuv,
    Your story and this must be so very hard on you. What you have suffered is what makes us all question having surgery.

    My biggest fear is what will I do if something goes in the wrong direction. I will deal with it, I know...no one wants to.

    All I can do is hope.

    I wish you the best with what you are coping with.
  • Hello,
    I have another question. I can have someone pull my legs and most of the time make the pain in my legs go away or get better.

    It also help the pain in my back.

    This of course is only a very temporary fix but it helps.

    From your personal knowledge and experience, is having a fusion still indicated as a help for these problems?
  • I have to stress again... research your nuerosurgeon...dont let a ortho touch you.

    if you are on goverment insurance or a government assisted progrom, do not let one of their doctors touch you. get the best. This is your back and I just wouldn't trust it to anyone.
  • That person was most likely right -- you will never be able to bend as you used to bend again. HOWEVER, you can learn to move correctly so that you don't end up re-injuring your back again. I've had a three-level fusion, meaning I've had four vertebrae fused together. I used to be able to bend over and put my palms on the floor. Will I ever do that again? I don't think so. However, I play ball with my dog and carefully stoop to pick up the ball, using my legs and stomach muscles. Proper mechanics can help you do nearly everything you did before and help insure you don't hurt yourself again.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • I also struggled with making the decision for surgery. I was very scared of the surgery, but also making things worse for myself.
    After two years of doing everything I possibly could (walking, exercising, chiro, drinking lots of water, eating very healthy, inflamation and pain reducing foods) I realised that my problems were getting worse. The surgeon told me if I continued to avoid surgery, I would end up in a wheel chair because of the continuing degeneration and stenosis.

    I had PLIF on L4/L5 11 weeks ago today. I was told that surgery would deal with my leg pain, but not my back pain. I am feeling so much better - both my legs and my back :-)

    I have just started working with my PT and he is going to show me ways to protect the levels above and below my fusion, and also my thoracic and cervical spine, where there are also problems.
    Not everyone develops adjacent disc syndrome and there are new ways of moving, that can avoid it.

    If given the choice again, I would still do everything I could to avoid surgery, but I would not avoid it for so long. I am feeling much better now and feel that I am getting my life back.
    Just today, my daughter told me she felt like she was getting her mum back! That made me feel great! :D
  • JellyHall,

    I am finally scheduled for L4/5 fusion, although it's TLIF vs. PLIF. I tried every conservative treatment out there. The injections work for a while but the pain comes back in my right leg, hip, mostly thigh area. Some numbness. But I am PETRIFIED of the surgery. I've been to about 5 or 6 doctors and I've decided to go with an OS. Did you have an OS perform your surgery???

    I have 2 kids who need me, ages 9 and 14. Should I try to hire some driving and light cleaning/laundry help? I'm thinking yes, since my husband is so busy with his job.

    thank God you are doing well. How old is your daughter? What kind of help did you need and use after your surgery?

    Thanks so much and God Bless you and your family!

  • Natelle,

    Your fears sound exactly like mine. I finally scheduled fusion for 9/1/10, at L4/5. I know your surgery was yesterday and I pray you will recover well. I am now busy preparing myself and my house and my family's needs for the recovery. I feel so overwhelmed and afraid. Please keep me posted on how you are doing. God Bless you!

  • Zola, how is the recovery from your surgery? I plan to have an L4/5 fusion on 9/1/10 after waiting two years and trying every conservative treatment available. But I'm very scared!!! I feel like I must not drive for 6 weeks at least and that's tough because I have kids. Did you need help cleaning and cooking?

    Anything specific you can tell me about your recovery experiences would be so very helpful. I hope you are doing well.

  • Jayhawk, I am so glad you are doing well. What type of help did you need after your surgery? I am scheduled for TLIF L4/5 on 9/1/10 and am so scared!!!

    Any insights would be helpful. Thank you!


  • Yes, I had an Ortho surgeon perform my fusion. He also did a decompression at the same time to take pressure the cord and nerves.

    My husband took 2 weeks off work to be with me and he took over the cooking and housework. Straight after surgery you will find bending/lifting/twisting/reaching very difficult. In fact a lot of surgeons (probably most) will tell you not to do it. Mine is less cautious but it hurt to do, and I'd read not to, so I didn't! This makes any driving/laundry/cleaning very difficult at first.
    If you are able to, I would say that getting help with cleaning and laundry would be helpful. It would take the pressure off you.
    Your children will be able to help with some things too.

    My family are grown up. My daughter is 32 and has a 3 year old daughter of her own. I also have 2 sons; one of 29 and the other is 21.

    I manage to do most things now, although carrying even not very heavy stuff is hard and vacuuming and mopping the floor are too much of a strain still. I can manage to clean the bathroom, although do ask for help with the bath. You definately need to prepare your house to have things to hand so you can reach them easily. You definately need at least one grabber.

    I am doing really well and am getting my mobility back. Since starting PT, I can do more without any pain.

    I was terrified about surgery, but actually by the last week or so, I was very calm about it. I knew that I had to face it and had handed myself over to God. With that, came an amazing peace that all would be ok.

    Wishing you well. Do ask any questions that you may have. We will all try to help you and put your mind at rest. :-)
  • Hi Liz! I too, have had an L4-5 fusion! Mine was a 360 which is both an anterior and posterior fusion. It is classified as 2 different surgeries and billed as 2 different surgeries!

    Some surgeons do them both on the same day (mine did) other's seperate them into 2 different days or with the weekend in between!

    Although this was my 3rd surgery in 4 1/2years with the same surgery, I was terrified. I was afraid of every aspect of the surgery, including not being able to wake up afterwards :(

    I would highly recommend when you go in for your pre op to tell the anethesiologist (?sp) that you would like something to help calm your fears as soon as you get to the hospital!

    I did this and it was so helpful! The other 2 surgeries I didn't and it was awful! Some surgeons will also give you something for the days right before to help calm your nerves if necessary.

    You will defianately need help with all activites for the first few weeks. But, it will be several weeks before you will feel up to doing housekeeping. I still am not able to vacuume.

    I have a 13 year old daughter. Since your date is after school started for the new year, I would definately hire someone to drive.

    I was cleared to drive at my first post op which I thought was irresponsible! I was no where near being ready to drive, on many different medications and there is no way my reflexes or muscle strength would allow me to slam on the brakes.

    I am 14 weeks and I still find it difficult to drive. A few weeks ago, I had to slam on the brakes and I found it very painful to do so...

    We are here for you! This is sort of a "pay it forward" type of group! We are here to support you in whatever way you need, just like others did for us!
    Feel free to ask any questions or PM if you want to!

  • HaSu48HHaSu48 Dallas TxPosts: 1
    So how long does it take to reach to wipe on your own after l4-5, l5-s1 fusion?  How long did it take to do things without help such as laundry, dishwasher unloading, reaching up to get something out of the kitchen cabinets, tieing shoelaces, bathing yourself, drying your feet???  Just everyday things like twisting and bending?  Even driving. Im really scared about not functioning. 
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