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Lumbar Fusion= "Barbaric"?

kyadog115kkyadog115 Posts: 266
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:46 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I see my surgeon on the 17th to finally get a date for L5 S-1 fusion. I've read on another site that this proceedure is "Barbaric" and in most cases NOT necessary.I'm confused and scared now. I have extreme hip,leg and back pain since i re-herniated the L5. I had a micro'd on this disc and was better but reherniated. I feel that i'm out of options,that the fusion is my last chance to finally have some relief.
The Neuro says I'm a "Good candidate"for this. Can one take care of themself after this surgery, such as using the bathroom and such? I live alone. I know i'll need some help afterwards but will i be able to do the basics? Should I re-consider? A friend of a friend had this done and he is 100% better and can jog and run. I know its individualized of course but when i hear these success stories I just wanna go for it,but then I hear horror stories,,,I;m lost&confused.Comments please?


  • I had a 2-level fusion 3 weeks ago now. My original back pain was totally eliminated after the surgery, which was brilliant. I have a few residual aches and pains from the surgery itself, but I consider it has been 100 per cent successful.

    Obviously the recovery is down to me - no lifting, bending, twisting, pushing or pulling for a while and no driving (until it's more comfortable to sit down). I am doing everything the surgeons advised to ensure my end result is successful.

    I was really freaked out by all the information I read on the internet and forums etc. From the good, bad to the downright ugly! Yes, it is scary and, to be honest, I thought my recovery would be extremely slow. The day after surgery, however, the physio's got me up and asked me to walk up/down a flight of stairs - no pain or discomfort at all. Brilliant! If I had lived nearer, I could have gone home on day 2. I don't have a belt or anything (I think they are used predominantly in the USA, not here in the UK).

    The important thing about all of this is the degree of faith you have in your surgeon. If you have any questions/concerns, you must make sure you talk to them first. Get them to explain (and show you on MRI/x-rays) exactly why they think you're a good candidate and also what is the prognosis if you DON'T have surgery. Get as much information as possible - try and talk to a few patients who have already had this procedure from your surgeon - it all helps.

    Also, any negative comments about surgery on any forum is usually not the full picture, because the people who have had successful outcomes are out living their lives and don't frequent the forum so much anymore (perhaps?).

    The essential equipment I have found useful are a grabber (or two), a raised toilet seat and a suctioned handle that we fitted to the tiles in the bath so I can get in/out of the shower myself, without help. Also, very loose fitting trousers have been a boon.

    I'm sure if you write all your questions down, your surgeon will be happy to answer them all. There won't be any they haven't heard before, I'm sure.

    Let us all know how you get on OK?

    Take care
    2 x Microdiscectomy 2005 / PLIFusion 2-level 2010 / revision surgery 2011 / NEVRO Senza spinal cord stimulator implanted February 2013. I WILL NOT GIVE IN / UP !!
  • Thank You for that info. I believe u r right also about the successful one's not returning to sites. I have a friend in France ....thats what he says to me too..."Let me know how u get on".......Unique to Europe I suppose. I'm glad for u that it went so well. I have to take a shot...Thanks so much for ur input !

  • Anterior of Posterior fusion?

    I am considering surgery at the same level
    My Story

    Good Luck and look forward to hearing how things go for you
  • Hi kyadog115,

    I struggled with the same feelings for about 5 months before I had PLIF L4/L5 spinal fusion on May 19th. What I found comforting was the power of information. I read all I could, got (4) consults, (3) from different ortho-spine surgeons, and (1) from a neuro-spine surgeon. All said that same thing after seeing my history and MRIs, x-rays etc... So that was good, but they all had a very different story about the recovery. I did end of going with the surgeon that was most optimistic. I also took into consideration, my very good health, non-smoker, gym-rat 5 days a week even in the considerable pain I was in, relative youth (46 yrs old), and the fact I had never had surgery on my back before. Plus over (4) years, I've tried modality under the sun that was conservative. I do pray alot, and had faith in the surgeon that did the surgery. I called it my very calculated risk. The flip side of no surgery is more pain, more disability, more sitting on the side lines, more very low key vacations and an inability to really take part in life with my two kids ages 16 and 13 and my husband of 18 years.
    It's a journey. I did it, I have no pain what-so-ever, the recovery is long. I am still in recovery, waiting for my 3-month visit and hopeful semi-release from surgeon's service to start out-patient PT. I would say being a (A type) person, the hardest for me was asking and receiving help. The key is help. I was so lucky to have (5) weeks of family in home to really deal with the nitty-gritty of life and let me heal slowly with no demands or time constraints. Following the rules (NO BLTs) bending, lifting, or twisting is harder than you think. Sorry to be so long about this message. I hope it helps you. PM me if you'd like to talk some more. Take care. Best, mel v.
  • I had L5/S1 fusion June 11th. Barbaric??? After 4 years of exercising, stretching, doing everything to put it off, I couldn't any more. Once it starts really affecting your day to day life, it's a decision. More pain meds? More time on the couch flat? Less time with the family?

    One could argue that drugs are barbaric in a sense. Is it right to continue to mask pain in a particularly addictive manner, when there is something that with all likelihood can fix the problem long term?

    Bottom line, whatever treatment route you take, it is a personal decision and I don't fault or judge anyone for doing or trying any particular methods to achieve relief. We all walk in our own shoes, not those of another.

    So.... Recovery. Hospital 5 nights PLIF (through the back only), some reactions to the painkillers kicked off my esophageal hernia so they had to calm that down. By the time you leave the hospital you will be walking. They should have a physical therapist and an occupational therapist spending time with you. Take this opportunity to ask questions. If you have steps or even a half step, have them train you how to use those with the walker. Tell them that your house is like such and such and ask them how you best to function in that environment.

    My godsend of a wife and my teenage daughters were here to help me. The toilet seat extender thingy saved me. The grabber. A shower easy to get in and out of. A lazy boy or your bed at a height easy to get in and out of. From there..... food? Who's going to keep the fridge stocked? Make sure it is at a height that does not require bending.

    By the end of 1 1/2 weeks at home, I was getting around without the walker. Could squat to get to things if I needed. Showering, toilet facilities and of course, driving were still issues. I was off pain meds other than Tylenol, and a night time muscle relaxant 3 days after getting home. I found that they left me feeling loopy. Visualize where you will be from a physical perspective in your house, set and plan everything according to a lifestyle that is no bending, lifting or twisting.

    Me.... 41 years old, in pretty good shape, going to the gym 3-4 times a week keeping the core strong all prior to surgery. I think this helped in the recover process.
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    If it is the right choice given your situation, it is then a good decision.

    By no means is lumbar, or cervical, fusion barbaric. There are many out there who state this but there are many of us who have had very successful outcomes.
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • Can you let your Surgeon know you live alone and have no one to help? Maybe recovery in rehab for a few weeks may be an option for you. This is the surgery must have list that you can check out and prepare before surgery...http://www.spine-health.com/forum/back-surgery-and-neck-surgery/post-op-must-haves-0
    Best wishes for your surgery. Take care. Charry
    DDD of lumbar spine with sciatica to left hip,leg and foot. L4-L5 posterior disc bulge with prominent facets, L5-S1 prominent facets with a posterior osteocartilaginous bar. Mild bilateral foraminal narrowing c-spine c4-c7 RN
  • I'm in complete agreement with all the replies you've received.

    I'm 9.5 months out and my fusion is a success. I'm out enjoying life every day. Most people who successfully recover are out enjoying life and don't post, but I'm staying here in the hope that I can encourage people like you to research your options and be well prepared if they decide to go ahead with surgery.

    A couple of years before my surgery, I, too, read so many horror stories, and was petrified of surgery, and put off seeing a neurosurgeon. When I'd withdrawn from life so much and in unbearable pain, I saw a neurosurgeon and had decompression surgery. It didn't help, and after several months, I started the process of seeing a couple of neurosurgeons. I had my fusion last October and I've got my life back again. I was fused at 6 months and from what I've read here, it takes another 6-9 months for the fusion to become really strong.

    Recovery is hard work and observing the no bending-lifting-twisting restrictions is essential.

    I live on my own with my two Labradors (girls). I had a domestic service come in for 4 months and friends and family helped me. I couldn't get anyone to help me exercise the dogs so they just had to be at home with me, and I couldn't afford to pay someone to do it. I now drive them to a park where they can run free. I notice you've got a beautiful German Shepherd and he/she will know that things are different when you come home from the hospital and will be very gentle. My girls were wonderful and didn't try and jump on me. Make sure you get enough dog food in and ask friends to change the water in the bowl.

    Initially, you'll just want to rest and walk, rest and walk ........

    Good planning, especially with shopping and preparing and freezing meals to last you for 2-3 months is recommended.

    I was fine with the basics of looking after myself. A grabber will be your 'best friend'. There'll be good days and bad days, and on the good days, it's so tempting to want to do too much. For the most part I was able to be strong and not be tempted because this was my one opportunity to get well again.

    Strengthening the core muscles and gentle stretching to maintain flexibility is an essential part of recovery. Your surgeon will let you know when it's ok to start physio. I went to the physio for 2 months but had to modify some of the exercises. I found walking the best exercise for me and at 7 months out, I started learning some basic Tai Chi.

    I still can't sit still for too long and need to get up and do other things before sitting again.

    My leg pain has completely gone and was 90% gone straight after surgery. I still get some back pain, but I can live with it. My surgeon aims for 80% - 90% recovery for his patients.

    Take care and post again when you've got your surgery date.


    XLIF L2-4 20.8.15
    ALIF L4/5 2009
    Laminectomy/discectomy L4/5 2008
  • TRish,
    Thanks for that info. That is def. another concern(dog). She's my girl and I know I wont be able to much w/her. But then again, I cannot do much in this condition either. I appreciate the input..

  • HI,
    I read Your "Story" was it sucessful? Did it help? MY surgeon is talking posterior I believe. He did say something about :Transverse" but he will not know until he got in there, Therefore he would have me sign 2 release's.....Im really not too clear on this.....can u tell me?

  • I think insurance not approving or delaying approval for a fusion when one is needed is cruel!

    Mine was 5 months ago and while it hasn't been an easy road by any means, it is doable.

    I too have dogs, 2 at the time of surgery. One is a 1 year old part dingo/part rhodessian ridge back! She is my baby and thought at over 100 pounds, that she was my lap dog.

    When I got home from the hospital, she instinctively knew to be gentle and calm! Her needs were very simple while I was recovering and she has been a great companion!

    Think of things that need to be moved up to within reaching level, such as a power strip, shoes, food, etc.

    Do you have a church where you could request the ladies to take turns bringing you dinner? Women love the idea of helping a man in distress! You may get too much food! :)

    Is there a boy scout or girl scout that would be willing to walk your dog a few times a week?

    Can you get your brace (if you will be needing one) a few days early? To wear and problem solve how to best set yourself up, finding what is comfortable.

    I had a hard time finding a comfortable place to rest. The bed was the only place I could find comfort.

    Wishing you the very best! You can do this! We are here to support you!
  • Having a fusion is definately a personal decision.
    It took me 4 years of extreme suffering before I broke down and had my 2 level fusion 5 months ago.

    My husband did so much for me the 1st few months. A toilet seat riser and a grabber is a must. I also had a bottom buddy to help reach places..lol..since bending is a no.no..that thing was a life saver.

    I have 2 smaller dogs..both around 30lbs. They seem to know something was wrong and were careful around me. I also rented an electric hospital bed which my insurance paid for. I kept it for 2 months. It also helped because I was in it so much the first 4 weeks. My room is upstairs so we put the bed in our living room so I wouldn't be cooped up and have to do 2 flights of stairs. I also used our basement step in shower for the 1st month.
    I had a shower chair for upstairs to fit in my tub. I was amazed at how tired just taking a shower made me.

    I still have pain but I am improving. Hoping to return to work soon.
    Good luck.

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