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Reading through the threads of those who have had fusion

mavbill84mmavbill84 Posts: 6
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:45 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
it doesn't sound like that procedure is very successful at all. I recall a comment with a surgeon during an appointment where he called that procedure the gold standard of treating spondylisthesis and disk degeneration.

Based on the results I'm seeing on these boards I'd hate to see the silver standard.

So, for those who have had fusion, has it been successful in relieving some or a good deal of your pain? Or has it done nothing and actually exacerbated the pain?


  • My 3 fusions have helped me. A lot of people on this site have continuing back problems for a whole host of reasons. Lots of people come here, stay a while, and leave once they get better. Getting better can/does take time. Not everyone is created equal as far as their backs are concerned. Most surgeons will tell you that a fusion is not being done to relieve back pain but rather to stabilize the spine. Does it help with the pain? Sure it does, or I should say it can. If your looking into having this done get a surgeon that does only spine surgery's and is fellowship trained. Your outcome will most likely be better.
  • I had a fusion on 6/28 of this year. L5S1, and already I had amazing improvement. I do have other issues that may leave me with some residual pain, but the fusion so far has left me with little to no leg pain.

    Any doctor who would tell a patient that a fusion will "cure" them or solve all of their problems is not at all being truthful. There is no crystal ball telling us what the outcome in the longrun will be. If my bones do actually fuse (I'm still really early out), then I suspect that my leg pain will continue to be at a minimum, barring any other unforseen problems.

    Just wanted to stop in and drop a line to tell you that, in my case, this fusion has been a godsend.

    Best of luck to you!
  • I haven't and won't have a fusion done is mainly because anybody that i know who has had one done has come out worse or at least not any better than before. I would go for a disk replacement before a fusion just my humble opinion.
  • silverbeam said:
    I haven't and won't have a fusion done is mainly because anybody that i know who has had one done has come out worse or at least not any better than before. I would go for a disk replacement before a fusion just my humble opinion.
    Fusions are done for other reasons other then a bad disk, and by the way a large % of disk replacement surgery's don't work out either and the end result is, yes, you guesseed it FUSION. Really depends on your own problem.

  • I had grade 2 spondylolisthesis causing severe stenosis on my cord and nerve roots. That caused severe sciatica in both legs and I was getting increasing neurological problems.

    Since surgery, my leg pain and nerve symptoms have almost completely gone and my lower back pain is also much improved. I would say that the results are probably even better than I had hoped for. :-)

    I am taking no medication at all now. :-)

    I felt very much better after a few weeks but I can still overdo it, if I am not careful, then have pain. I am starting to get back to my life :D
  • I've had two fusions, a 3-lvl ACDF and a 1-lvl TLIF, just over a year apart.

    For me, I consider both a success. I still have pain in my neck, but have recently had a cervical MRI and CT scan and there are issues above my fusion.

    I still have lower back pain, but the severe back pain, hip pain and leg pain are gone. But only being just under seven months out from lumbar surgery, what I'm experiencing isn't uncommon. It's a long recovery and I'm still much better than I wasw before surgery.

    Like it was said above, those that have had successful surgeries tend to move on and no longer post because they don't need the support offered here any more. Some stay to help others, like yourself.

  • We are now five weeks after the fusion and he has no pain whatsoever. He was in terrible pain before and was told he would be in a wheelchair within six months. Now he is walking six kilometers a day. We don't know if it is fusing yet and won't know until the end of August, but he has no regrets whatsoever about having the surgery.BTW, he is 66 so is no spring chicken!
  • I had a 3 level cervical anterior fusion Aug. 2009. I still have arm and hand weakness, redid MRIs Dec 2009 and July 2010 and it shows reherniation of C4/5, 5/6, 6/7 and many more hernitations throughout my whole back. Drs say I have degenerative disk disease.

    I had my L5/S1 surgery May 2010 and the leg pain, weakness, and tingling came back as early as in the recovery room. Dr says it will take months so the nerve can recuperate.

    Trying to be patient and positive but it is very hard.
    Anita Anguiano
  • I spent a lot of time reading forums, talking to people, searching the internet and trying to gather as much information about fusion as possible.

    My two bits..... If someone doesn't like something, they will tell 10 people. If they like something, maybe they will tell two or three people. If it worked, "hey, I'm outta here, not posting etc", if it didn't work, I'm perhaps complaining, perhaps venting, perhaps have some relief but not enough, or perhaps still searching for a solution.

    There are so many factors to consider, that if you hear someone that had a bad experience, or a good experience, that it is impossible to compare to what you might go through.

    Quality of life before surgery
    Age of patient
    Vertebrate and number being fused
    Type of pain before surgery, where, what how?
    General health of patient? Obese? Skinny? In shape? Other health issues?
    Type of doctor performing the surgery. Spine? Ortho? Neuro?
    Alternative treatments prior?
    Smoker or not?
    Surgeries prior to fusion? Some have had disc work surgeries and the like, then fusion.
    What type of surgery? XLIF/PLIF/ALIF/360?
    What did they do after surgery? Did they follow all advice, or fudge on the bending and lifting?

    My surgeon offered no guarantees. He said with my particular issues, my age and his planned procedure, he was hoping for 90-95% success rate based upon history. After 4 years of trying everything I could to put off the surgery, I had L5/S1 fusion June 11th. So far, I could not be happier. Recovery is not easy, but I no longer have the pain in my legs and feet. I start physical therapy next Monday, the hardware looks good per x-rays yesterday and in another 3 months or so, we'll know if the bone growth is happening.

    As stated earlier, it is a personal decision.
  • Those are all great considerations and I agree that it's all relative.

    Another thing to consider, as this is my personal situation:

    I was in a horrible car accident (hit headon by a drunk driver in the mountains) when I was 19 years old, and I'm now 48. I wasn't wearing a seatbelt at the time and got thrown forward, my head hit and shattered the windshield, my jaw hit the metal dashboard and both of my knees hit the dashboard, denting it in two places (my knees were severely bruised, but not broken amazingly). I had to have ultrasound for six months just to open my mouth enough to eat soon after the accident and had traumatic arthritis in my knees for years, but no warning signs about what happened to my spine.

    According to all the docs I've talked to, my spine problems started then, almost 30 years ago. I had no symptoms until I was 46 and by then my spine was collapsing and apparently slowly had been since the car accident. Looking back with hindsight being 20/20, hubby and I can now see that there were signs, but never bad enough to think about going to see a doctor.

    We also have to consider our long ago past when considering where this may have started and thus, why it's so debilitating now. I can't tell you how many members here have the same story as mine.

    If only I'd had some sign before I was 46, 36 or even 26, maybe my spine wouldn't be so bad now. All these years afterwards I've done Tae Kwon Do, bungee jumping, rafting, throwing my head around while messing around to a song, etc. All those things I did in the interim just made it all worse without my ever knowing I was on the road to severe spine problems.

    Whoda thunkit.

  • YES I WOULD DO IT AGAIN. I have my life back. I couldn't even squeeze a cherry pitter without my back going into spasms two years ago. Now I walk, jog, play ball with the dog, etc. I do not regret this surgery at all, and I had a doozy.
    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • I'm 9 months out from L4-5 fusion and so far, it's successful. After years of chronic pain, I've got my life back again. I'm not a 100% but the leg pain has gone completely and there's just a bit of weakness left. For the rest of our lives, we have to remember good back mechanics.

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

    Prior to my surgery, I was so scared of fusion and I put it off for a couple of years. I kept reading other people's experiences and articles on this site which gave me the confidence to find a good neurosurgeon.

    Recovery takes a long time, and at the time you wonder when is it going to end. It's essential to follow the no BLT rules and ask for help. 7 months out was a turning point for me.

    I would think that I've still got a few more months before my fusion is really strong, but I can go for long walks with my dogs off lead, and that's one of my greatest joys.

    Even though I'm feeling pretty good, I enjoy being on our forum because just maybe I can encourage others, and I've made some lovely friends. I don't know if I'll need more surgery in the future, but in the meantime, I'm enjoying life.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • All the comments are correct. This surgery has an 80% success rate, meaning you will be better than before. How much depends on many things.

    I am 4 months post op and doing great. The first couple months are real hard, but it gets better quickly after that. At least for me. AZmikey had all good points. Boards like this are going to have mostly negative comments, because people are looking for help and answers. There are also a lot of great people here for support.

    Get three opinions, a great ortho, and make sure you need it. I had the same thoughts as you and so has everyone else. I would do it again without hesitation.

  • the neurosurgeon was very upfront and made no guarantees. He was frank about his expectations unlike other surgeons I spoke with who either wanted to do a multi-level fusion (something I understand you just don't want to do or one who said go ahead and schedule surgery (there is a lot more to this story but too long to go into here).

    At least this last surgeon said put it off as long as you possibly can b/c it is 1. very painful, 2. the results are 50/50 for getting 50 to 70 percent relief, and 3. the surgery "starts the clock ticking for your next back surgery. Based on comments here that seems to be true as many of you have had multiple back surgeries.
  • Whether to do it depends on your pain level and quality of life. My pars were fractured, nerve crushed and grade 2 slip. I felt I had no choice. Dr did one level as opposed to 2 and only brought slip half way back. Goal was to free nerve and minimize strain on above vertebrae reducing need for further surgeries. You never mentioned what exact procedure is to be done or your exact problem. Maybe PT and Decompression Therapy would help. You will know when it is time, believe me. I reached a point where I was ready to make the cut and do it myself. I lived with moderate back pain most of my life, no where near my year prior to surgery April 12th 2010.

    I have talked to many people thru my job who have had back surgery and all are OK now and no regrets. Some are not 100% pain free and I may never get there either. But, very happy so far. For most the high pain will be 1-3 months post op and you will question if you should have had the surgery. Got to look past that as hard as it may seem to do that at the time.

    Good Luck,

  • and two failed operations and countless painful procedures and drugs too many to name .i have come to the end of the conservative line as regards to treatment .my new surgeon is a specialist in mechanical spinal problems and is one of the best in the UK {people tend to go to him when all else fails!} he has told me that my spine is now beyond its natural ability to function as it was intended and now it needs some help .{hence the pain} he has suggested a multi level fusion 360 degree {this is a high risk operation but he feels that its my only option} like you i have read many many post and emails on fusions and i also came to the conclusion that fusions suck! but after finding a good surgeon that i can trust i am willing to undergo this risky operation in the hope that my life will be better .,..i know that i will never be like i was when i was 18 {i am 44 now} and i am sick of living of pain killers and sitting on my recliner with my fan on me as i get hot very quickly .my quality of life is not too good and my thinking is ..if the surgeon can reduce the pain then i can reduce the pain killers and hopefully my life will improve ..its a long shot and believe me i did not want this kind of life .i have lost one marriage and a good job through ill health and although i will probable never work again i would still like to remain married and live out my life as best as i can ..{ i do feel cheated because i have always looked after myself ..when my so called friends were drinking and smoking and sleeping around i was saving like mad for a deposit for a house and my recreation was swimming {i did not drink /smoke or sleep around and did not do drugs } now i am dependent on oxycontin and i smoke and i am over weight i still don't drink ! its funny how life turns out ..talk about best made plans!
    .so to end i am 44 married and all i want this to get back some quality of life and if a fusion will do this ..then so be it ....i suggest that if you need a fusion make sure that you find a surgeon through reputation and get at least 3 opinions {its never going to be an easy decision but life is not easy .trust me i never though i was going to end up as i have done .i wish you all the luck in the world
  • that I would suffer such a life changing injury so early in my life. After my first surgery, I thought I would gradually improve and feel okay again. I went downhill instead and wounded up needing a fusion on L4-S1. I hoped for the best.

    The fusion was technically successful. Unfortunately I still continued to have chronic back pain along with nerve damage. I was aware of all the risks, but I knew something had to be done since the pain was taking over and the quality of life was poor.

    To this day I believe it was best to have a fusion because I couldn't handle being the way I was and it hurt to miss out on just about everything . I know it sounds weird since I still have pain, but at least I know that my surgeon was able to fix the retrolisthesis on L4-5 for instance. He did the best he could with my spinal problems.

    Yes, fusions are not to be taken lightly of course. I guess the real question is, how bad is the pain and could you live with it 24/7?
  • I am only 3 weeks post op on a TLIF of L4-L5. So far, I consider it a success. I have not experienced any of the pain I had pre-surgery. All of my pain now appears to be from trauma to the surrounding muscles.

    My doctor put it to me this way. He made me no guarantees but said that the best I should expect would be to bring my pain from a 9 to a 3. He said he considered it a success if a patient that was taking narcotics to control pain pre-surgery was now able to control occasional backaches with tylenol. As others have stated, it is really a matter of whether you feel like living with increasing pain or risking surgery.
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    I would do every one of my surgeries over again. Each has led to some relief. I do have pain controlled by pain medications but I've been able to eliminate some of the causes. I'll do any surgery any time any where if it'll help any of my pain.

    It's too generalized to say a fusion leads to more problems/surgeries down the road. There are people who have a multi-level fusion and don't have any further problems. I have a friend who did so, and 2 years later he's beyond happy with the outcome. He said sometimes he gets a low back ache, and he said this once to a friend of his. His friend, who had no back surgery and was the same age, said sometimes a backache comes with aging.

    Will anyone with a fusion be 100% again? Probably not as it does alter the spine. But it can lessen pain and lead someone to continue to be able to work, parent, exercise, have fun, etc.

    For anyone with something like spondylolisthesis a fusion is often the only answer. Spondylolisthesis is when a vertebrae moves forward over the one below it. It's a spine instability problem so stabilizing the spine can only be done by a fusion.

    And as for artificial discs (ADR) there is a good reason it's not approved in all cases or by all insurance companies, there is not enough evidence to support that it lasts a lifetime and that it will eliminate the need for further surgeries. And not every person is an ADR candidate. If you look at things like knee replacements they are VERY common. But no knee last a lifetime. The latest technology says a possible 30 years, but there's no way to know.

    It all comes down to the diagnosis, symptoms, life situation, quality of life, and personal surgical decision based on your unique situation. No two spines are alike and even two people the same age/gender with identical spine problems having identical surgery by the same surgeon are not going to have the same outcome.

    I happen to have abnormally lax ligaments and tendons. As such my spine, knees, feet, arms, etc have all had problems. So my history doesn't imply what someone else would experience.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
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