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6-8 week recovery for a L5-S1 fusion???

DedalusDDedalus Posts: 92
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:45 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I don't really have enough details to be posting this, but it is on my mind and bothering me, so what the hay, I'll post anyway.

I am heading down the path of an L5-S1 fusion after years of trying conservative treatment. I am pretty comfortable with the decision, but I have a question about recovery time. The surgeon I am going to seems great and since I have started seeing him, I have met several people he has operated on and all of them love him withut fail. He specialized in minimally invasive surgery and says he should be able to do my fusion with 2 small (1-2 inch) incisions. He described replacing the disc with a "cage" and then attaching 2 rods to the back of the segments with 4 screws. Sounds good. (Oddly, there was no mention of bone in addition to the hardware, but that's another topic) When I asked how long before I could return to work he said 6-8 weeks. I asked him to repeat to be sure and yep, 6-8 weeks to return to my sedentary work. That sounds like a very short recovery time to me based on what I have read around these forums. Is it?

One of my co-workers had the same surgeon perform the same surgery about 3 years ago (on a different level), and he said he was comfortably back to work in 7 weeks. Is that really a reasonable recovery time? Is it because of the doctor's "minimally invasive" technique? Should I be concerned? Of course I will be asking the surgeon all of this at our next appt, but I am curious what you all think.


  • I had the same procedure, though mine was a full PLIF, not a minimally invasive procedure. My doctor told me plan on 6-8 weeks off. I work out of a home office. I returned to work after 4 weeks (boredom and feeling good). Besides, I could take a nap when needed. I am now 7 weeks and begin physical therapy on Monday.

    I think the 6-8 weeks is the standard time frame given. Minimally invasive or open PLIF, the end result is the same. A disc is removed, screws and rods are used and a cage is installed. It is still a lot of work on the body. The main thing is making sure that you are giving your body time to rest and the bone/graft process time to take place. While I went back to work after 4 weeks, I still take plenty of walks and use a recliner periodically to ensure that I am not sitting all day putting constant pressure on that area of the spine.

    Even today, I still get tired easily and am uncomfortable at times.
  • I had a plif at the l5-s1 level in oct. 09. I still havent returned to work it was 4 month before i was released to very light duty work. With no bending stooping or pulling and no standing or siting for long periods at all. with lift resriction of 10 lbs. I am a plumber so with those rescrictions I still am not back to work. But you always have to look for the best.

    Good luck and I hope the best for you.
  • Yep, it is very conceivable to be back in that time frame. At 38 you are young enough not to be bothered by all the other aches and pains that come along with older age and make recovering from a surgery such as this hard. My first 2 surgery's on my back I could of gone back in 8 weeks. You most likely will not be fully recovered and may tire easily and still hurt somewhat. We are each different in our recovery times and each different in how we feel at the same time period so its anybody's guess, and that's all it is.

    Do not take anything I say as medical advice. I am not a doctor and you would need to have him/her answer your questions direcly.

    Good luck.
  • for return to work, which is totally different than recovery. I returned to work part time after 4 weeks, gradually adding more time till I was back to full time in three months. I did, however, have a three-level fusion, not one level like you. It took me about a year and a half to feel as though I have really recovered. Don't expect miracles -- back surgery is tough stuff.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • sounds normal time frame depending on type of work u do...and the company...
    I had very physical job when i had my l4,l5 fusion....but i was asst.mangager so i had a boss and she was great....
    I was of course on alot of restrictions...and i was bored but least i was outta of house..
    best of luck to you and go slow...
    keep us posted on how things go
    neck,bone spurs pain started 04, back issues and fusion l4,l5 06~hardware removed.
    good few yrs. 09 pain sharp, numbness feet,legs, diagnosed fibro, neurop. legs.lung issues.
    daily goal do good thing for someone.
  • I had a PLIF done from L4-S1 on June 22. I'm a teacher, and will be returning to work right on time on August 18th. While I am still tired easily and need to avoid sitting or standing for long periods of time, for the most part I feel pretty good about it. Each person's recovery is different, but hopefully, with the minimally-invasive procedure, you'd be feeling better than those of us with the lovely 6 and 7 inch incisions, LOL.

    Good luck!

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    Post Edited by Moderator haglandc

  • i am due to have a multi level fusion within the next 6 months and my surgeon {who is one of the best in the uk} has told me that it will take 12 months to get over the operation and another 2 years to recover to be as well as i will ever be ..so when i read things like ;back to work after 6 weeks post fusion ;and other stuff like that i wonder why i am being told 12/36 months recovery ??? i know that i have a particularly bad spine and various surgeon have refused to work on me but there is a massive difference from 6 weeks to 36 weeks ??? confused of uk
  • I think that it is so important to be hopeful about recovery, but you also must be realistic. It may take one year or more to get to your ultimate improvement. Then again, a few people improve quickly. It seems prudent to give yourself the time described by your surgeon. You simply can't push this recovery. If you have a quick recovery...great; wonderful! But every fusion patient must be prepared to devote whatever time required.

    I'm 8 months post-op, and am still not completely recovered. The last two months, I've gained more flexibility, but I'm still dealing with pain/spasms. I had no complications at all from the surgery, but my only setback is that my fusion was not present at 6 months. I'm wearing a bone stimulator and bumped up my nutrition/supplements. I have a physical job, so I'm not returning to work until I am stronger, and hopefully better fused. What I would say to the actual fusion is to not take it for granted that you will fuse. You must do everything in your power from the beginning to help that fusion along, especially since you are having a multi-fusion. Do your research.

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