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Here we go again, post PLIF...

mellynn36mmellynn36 Posts: 24
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:45 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I had a bi-level fusion on June 22, fusing levels L4-S1. Prior to the surgery, I had horrible sciatica, left leg numbness and limp, foot drop, oh, and awful back pain! The fusion took 5 hours b/c the surgeon had to spend an hour combing through the scar tissue from my laminectomy eight years ago. When I awoke from surgery, I was unable to feel my right buttock or thigh, and had also lost sensation in my first three fingers of my right hand. It was attributed to how I was positioned on the table, and by the end of my two-day hospital stay, my fingers were back to normal (not the right leg, though).

The first three or four weeks, I was surprised. While I certainly wasn't comfortable, I noticed improvement in my left leg and in the intensity of the back pain (it wasn't the *same* back pain, if you get what I mean--it was surgical in nature, not just miserable). However, the right leg was prone to rolling tingling, pins-and-needles sensations, hot/cold sensations, and general numbess. I also have great difficulty (still!) in putting on pants/shorts--I cannot raise my right leg more than three or four inches without great pain and resistance.

Tonight, I'm back to that same miserable sciatica I had before surgery, and I'm so disheartened by it. I visited my surgeon this week to discuss the right leg issue, and he did x-rays (didn't say anything about the results, so I assume all is well) and am scheduled for nerve testing on Monday morning.

Questions: Is this sciatica the result of just doing too much, inflamation, etc., or am I in trouble here? How painful is nerve testing? What can I expect generally being almost 7 weeks out?

Thanks in advance...this is so daunting, and there truly is comfort in numbers!


  • There is nobody here who could possibly answer your question on what is causing your sciatica. I see that your post has been read 45 times already and nobody has answered, probably for that reason. All that anybody here would be able to say is that you're very early in your recovery (5 weeks) and that nerves heal slowly, potentially causing numerous kinds of unpleasant sensations. But, as far as answering your question, your surgeon would have to do that. As far as nerve testing, I've had it a couple of times and the first time it was very painful, the second time it was not. I cannot answer why that was the case.

    Now that I've bumped your question back to the top of the list, maybe someone else will jump in here and give you some suggestions. I do hope you get some answers which will help you relax about what is happening to you during the long recovery period from a double fusion. I'm having an L4-S1 fusion myself in the near future so I expect I'll be here talking about the unexpected things that I'm experiencing, too! :)

    2009 Foraminotomy C6-72010 PLIF L4-S1Multi RFA's, cervical inj, lumbar injLaminectomy L3-4 and fusion w/internal fixation T10-L4 July 17Fusion C2-C5 yet to be scheduled
  • Sorry that you're in lots of pain since your surgery.

    As Linda has said, we can't tell you what is causing your sciatica. You are very early in your recovery and nerves heal slowly.

    After my surgery, I had a very restless left leg and found it very hard to keep it still, but that went after a few months.

    Have you been observing the no bending-lifting-twisting restrictions? That's so important. At the same stage as you, all I was doing was resting in bed/recliner with lots of little walks. I had domestic help.

    In regard to getting your pants/shorts on, I used a dressing stick for several months - that's a piece of wood with a cup hook on the end. Are you using a grabber to pick things up with?

    Hope the nerve testing isn't too painful for you tomorow.



    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • to be expecting a miraculous cure of your pain. I suffered through at least four "flare-ups" of intense sciatica and back pain after surgery. Usually a medrol pack and some lyrica would take care of it in about a week's time. It took me about a year and a half before I could walk fairly normally. Nineteen months before I could bend down to tie my shoes!! You're going to have some little set backs along the way. Don't let them get you down. I awoke from surgery (well, the first one of the two) with a numb right foot. Nearly two years later, it is still mostly numb. I would, however, go through the surgery again in a heartbeat. It gave me my life back.
    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    Nerves take a long time to heal. And as you heal there in inflammation in the body that can cause some nerve impingement as well. I had an L3-S1 fusion in February 2010. Just now, as I approach the 6 months post-op date, is some of my nerve pain decreasing. I've had eruptions of new nerve pain, decrease in other, etc during this voyage of recovery. Yet I still have days where all of the sudden there is a flare up. At my visit with the surgeon two weeks ago he said this is common and he won't be worried about any of this until it becomes overwhelmingly severe or I get to one year post surgery.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
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