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any other 3 level fusions out there?

fused78ffused78 Posts: 32
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:49 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi, i kinda new to the board but Ive been lurking around for a while though. I was curious if there are any other people floating around in here that have had a 3 level lumbar PLIF? I had mine done Dec 7 2010, So as of right now im abou3 3 weeks post op. Im looking to find someone else to talk to as I have questions,I'm hoping for a good outcome, I want my life back. let me know!




  • Sorry, I only had 2 levels fused, but since they took the middle vertebrae out and replaced it with a titanium cage it was a bit more complicated (and since it was L1-L3 I had to have a thoracotomy, a major thoracic surgery, to give my surgeon anterior access).

    What levels did you have fused?
  • l3/4, 4/5, 5/s1. I also had a pars Defect they took care of while they were in there. overall it was 8 screws 2 rods.
  • So how are you feeling? I had one rod and 2 plates (on top of the titanium cage). My rod is anterior, though.

    Even though I just have the plates in the back, it's still pretty swollen. I am guessing yours are still fairly painful? And of course our bodies are still learning to accomodate our new spines!

  • have not had mine yet jan 4 but haveing the same done that u did op
  • so far so good. Im 3 weeks post op, and Im having daily discomfort but overall the pain is better than pre-op. Im not laying in bed everyday, Im up walking or in a recliner, Im getting antsy, hard to sit still. 1-10 scale onthe pain its about a 7 average daily. Hoping for a speedy recovery. Gotta stay straight and still, waiting for those donor bone plugs to grow

  • I'm not even 2 weeks post op yet, but I hear ya. Right now my main pain generator is the incision for my thoracotomy. The fusion generally just generates an overall achy feeling in my spine, hips and SI joint, totally expected since I had to have pretty significant correction of deformity and my spine is all a different shape now!

    I am also up and about quite a bit. In fact, in bed is not my most comfortable spot right now, and I'm not sleeping well at all.

    I'm still not allowed to do any bending, lifting, or twisting so I can't say whether things are better than before, as those are exactly the things I couldn't do! I would say sitting feels improved- I can sit 30 minutes now (my max allowed) and feel fatigue, but have not had any nerve pain in my back yet. But I'm hesitant to believe it's just gone, that would just be too miraculous!

    Good for you keeping up and around. I heard the same thing from *everyone* in the hospital! Get up, walk, get the blood flowing and your lungs working!
  • Hi Fused 78,

    I had a 3 level fusion on Dec 3rd 2010 Mine was L1-L4. What can I help with you with? My mobilty is very different now and I'm still pretty sore from the hip where they took the bone but overall I'm doing great!

  • Three level lumbar fusion, L3-S1, November 2008. Life won't be the same as it was before you were injured, but you will get used to the stiffness. I rarely have pain any more, although it did take me about 18 months to recover. I had a few set backs along the way, requiring some steroids and extra pain killers, but I'm doing great now. I walk alot and do Pilates and would never like to go back to the pain I had pre-surgery.

    I had my surgery in two stages - the rods and screws were placed from the back in the first surgery (two rods, seven screws), but they couldn't get my damaged discs out because I had too much scar tissue. Four days (and several units of blood) later, they went in from the front, took out the damage discs, put in the cages, allograph, and BMP mixed with my own bone marrow. I was totally fused by one year out.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • at what point Can I go swimming, ride a motorcycle, go to the gym ,play baseball, basketball, run a half mile, and re-live all the missed years of my sons childhood because of this crappy back? LOL c-mon Times a wastin!

    Seriously though, Im having post up numbness/sensation issues with my left foot. I had these intermittently to a serious degree before the surgery and Im surprised to be still having them. Its like an itch you cant scratch. Dull sensation of touch, burning, and itchy some more. and its hard to move my toes, If I didn't look at them while i'm in the recliner I wouldn't know they were there sometimes. did any of you have any issues like this post op?

    I know its going to take time, I just feel bad at the moment because my fiance is off work to take care of me, she is trying to help but I guess im making it difficult for her by trying to do things around the house I shouldn't. Ive got cabin fever. Stir-crazy. Ive been out of the house a couple times post-op once to a furniture store and another to watch christmas lights in a neighborhood close to home. Both were pretty rough but I survived.

    Today I get to leave the house again, to the Dr office to pick up some scripts for my meds. Im on breakthru meds for my pain aside from a daily regimin morphine, they only give 40 at a time and I ran out over the holidays. Christmas eve was fine but christmas day and yesterday I pretty much played hermit, laying in bed because of the pain
    being CRANKY! did I say CRANKY!? Its so hard to not be in this situation,

    ok Im done whining . I hope you all enjoyed a piece of cheeze with my whine I'm so happy to share :)

    Fused 78

  • Well, those are good questions to ask your doctor :) Remember that the goal is for the bone grafts to grow in and make good strong bone fusions, and if you do too much too early you will interrupt that process. So focus on the long haul! (that's the lecture I got from the PTs anyway!)

  • I know I know. I just view this one as a chance to maybe gain some function back, and start my life over and do all the things I haven't been & wanting to do for so long. My life just isn't what I'm looking for, Ill do anything to change it or regain the years Ive missed because of this crummy spine of mine. Being antsy, and stubborn and persistent are qualities that come and go with me, Maybe its a lesson in patience that I'm getting right now. Be well!

  • you'll need to ask your doc, but I think you can start swimming when your incisions are very well healed. You really don't want to take the chance of getting anything into the incisions that can cause infection. As far as sports and running goes, there may be some bad news there. I told my physical therapist that I sometimes jog with the dog, especially when he is chasing squirrels, and he told me he really does not think running is a good idea. You will need to be VERY careful of lifting and twisting. Because you have a segment of your spine that is fixed (as in stuck, not repaired), you run the risk of damaging your discs on the levels immediately above. Apparently, it is not at all uncommon for people to have to have those levels fused after several years. I don't know about you, but fusion surgery is something I NEVER, EVER want to do again.

    I walk a lot and do quite a bit of Pilates, but rough and tumble sports and running is not something I'll ever do again.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • SpineAZSpineAZ WiscPosts: 1,084
    I had been L4-S1 but had that extended to L3-S1 in February 2010. I have spondylolisthesis where the vertebrae moves forward. My prior surgery was 1993 and then this year as L3 decided to slip forward. I'm a bit of an anomaly as I have lax ligaments and tendons so don't let my surgical history scare you.

    Recovery from L3-S1 is tough. You find that the bed or recliner are your best friend. I was told walking would help and indeed I did some walking as soon as my doctor allowed. I'm now in PT as I have some low back ache they were hoping to improve. I have to finish PT this week (insurance allows 20 PT sessions per year and I don't want to use the allotment for 2011)
    2 ACDFs, 2 PCDF, 3 LIFs; Rt TKR; Rt thumb fusion ; Lt thumb arthroplasty; Ehlers Danlos 
  • The last few days I've had more pain! I feel stiff and sore. :( I'm not happy. That surgery was hell and never want to experience spine anything ever again! I'm hoping it's just the cold. My surgeon said I did not need physio but I seem to think so, I'm so stiff! My hip is the worst part for now.. Yeah, I'm having a pity party at my house too.. I was told to go and be "normal" from my surgeon so, I hope I'm not doing any damage by bending and carring things!

    Will the stiffness get better??


    pity party..
  • No offense, and I'm certainly not someone who knows everything (although sometimes I act like it), but if your doc expects you to be totally normal after a three-level fusion, I'd be calling him/her a quack. Just one level restricts your mobility, how in the heck does he expect you to be normal after three? I had my surgery in November 2008. I STILL go to physical therapy. Fortunately, my insurance pays for 60 visits a year, so I lucked out there. I'll be buying a Pilates machine of my own soon so I can keep up with my exercises. Life is good, but I don't think I'll ever be normal again (okay, so I've never been normal in my entire life, but that has nothing to do with my back! ) ;)

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • well the best thing to do when you have a problem like this is to continue on.. Try to live normal. Focus on the things you can do, try to do teh things you cant or couldnt. Dont let the ailment define you. I think this is what that doctor was referring to.

    After all these surguries are to help change the quality of your life due to chronic pain. They are only attempts sometimes. Keeping positive, following directions and not getting depressed while healing/recovery are super important.

    Attitude is KEY!

    Be well! I cant wait to hit the gym, waterski, run a marathon, do jumping jacks, and squat thrusts :)

    ^ Im kidding. :) at least I can joke about it!
  • I will not pretend to know everything either, but I would not go through this without PT. Of course your body is stiff, it's trying to get used to a spine that is different than what it has lived with for however many years- and directed activity as well as just information is so useful.

    I feel quite grateful to have multiple doctors working with me, because it seems like wherever one of them has a blind spot, another fills in. Do you have a primary care doctor who might give you another POV on the recovery?

  • Yes. I have a awesome family doctor who has always laid all the options out on the table and lets me choose what I think is best with his guidance. Im lucky to have the 2 DRs I have. To start moving about I plan on doing some stuff here at home on the wii fit and swimming once im told I can. I have been reading about recovery from this sort of surgery and I do know its a long road but Ive got some good people behind me and a good head on my shoulders. I want to be that guy who beat all odds and bounces back. Lets see if I can do it. If not, at least I tried, and its not a letdown. I think a letdown is not being real to yourself and others around you and letting things fail.

  • If you can do it on your own, then great. But do it! Remember that the muscles and joints have been through their own trauma and will need some help getting back.

    Personally, I am not a DIY rehabber. If I don't have the PT in my face I will not stretch past discomfort, or push past being tired. Or, I'll stretch too far and push too hard and injure myself. For some reason, without guidance I never get it quite right :)
  • I think I'm going to try swiming. I have a gym in my apartment building so, I'm going to start going on the tred mill. I am an active person and I get out at least once a day for a walk but I'm not sure about lifting weights?? I think I'll call my surgeon's office to ask. I do have a primary doctor but she's not educated on spine stuff.

    Linda, Yes, I think it's crazy that he suggested no P.T. I mean, I'm walking with a limp at the moment because of my hip pain and I'm just so stiff!

    I think I'm my own worst enemy! I do not like to fail and threw this process it's been hard not to. The key for me is letting things go.....

  • I have to admit that besides getting out and walking, all I wanted to do for at least the first year was park my butt on the couch with my knees up. My pain greatly diminished with the surgery and stabilizing my spine, but I was so terrified of hurting myself again that I was pretty timid about doing things. I did buy a kneeler/bench so I could go out in the yard and do gardening, I eventually bought a push (reel) mower, because I can't handle the twisting involved in pulling the dang cord to start a regular mower, I got into Pilates (strengthening your core can do a lot to support your back), and lately, I've been dancing. I'd like to be as fit as possible, but I'm ever mindful of the potential for re-injury. I used to be a fairly hard core gym rat and was very flexible, able to bend over and put my palms flat on the floor. I know that will never happen again. I'm accepting of this. I'm so glad I am not in the agony I was pre-surgery. As was said above, we do need to realize that a multi-level fusion is really about diminishing the pain and not about "fixing" our bodies. We can, however, strive for health and fitness with our limitations.
    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • I am about to have a 3 level fusion set for Jan 17 2011. I had L5-S1 fusion 2 years ago Dec 2008 inwhich did great for 4 months but the last year has been a nite mare!! I have not worked for 10 years.
  • Sorry to hear about your failed attempts with your spine. SO far so good. Im one month post op, My pain is subsiding a little ( still have some neuropathy/numbness in left foot) Things are getting better, and Im not going to let this one fail. Ive been doing nothing myself too long ( 10 years also) the only way for things to go in this life for me are to get better.

    May the new year be prosperous to all of you. Best wishes to all of you.

    Fused 78
  • With the new year, I have resolved to walk longer and more often with the dog. Also, since I will not be able to afford to continue physical therapy much longer, and since I need to keep up my pilates (the classes are very expensive), I will be buying a Stott Pilates Reformer from Costco, when it comes up on special next week. A $2800 machine for $1500. It's my retirement gift to myself.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • :? Wow. After reading the last post I took a peek at those pilates machines, Wow they are expensive, but I can see how that kind of conditioning/therapy is good for folks like us with hardware. I Just dont know where I would put something like that in our little house.

    I have a pilates ball and some other exercise equipment. On and off before this fusion I just had I would use a Ablounge ab exerciser, Not too sure Ill be able to use it anymore. Im concerned about getting my abs in shape when able to as those are important in keeping things straight. I want to be as proactive as possible. A few of you said its pretty early for any kind of activity other than walking but I really am crawling in my skin here, Im feeling alot better than I was pre-op but still have pain and for once it is somewhat manageable. Yesterday I only took half of my daily dose of morphine, and I didnt notice it till late evening, I was astonished as I thought I had taken it and I felt pretty good!

    Today my pain is on the minimal side and I think I might be a little dehydrated from meds and the 2 glasses of wine I had last night for my new years celebration so Im pounding a large glass of water at the moment.
    The neuropathy and numbness in my left foot and toes/outside of my calf and shin are extra bothersome today. I see the surgeon for a post op checkup this week, hopefully they have something to offer me to help with this along with the bone growth stimulator I was promised. Probably gabapentin or some pregabalin ( nuerontin or lyrica?) Who knows maybe something else, topamax?

    Ill keep you all posted on what happens this week. You guys are awesome, and HAPPY NEW YEAR! STAY POSITIVE !

  • Well, part of physical therapy is very mental, I think- teaching you NOT to have that fear. For 3 years I've been living with a back that would react very badly if I did the wrong thing. I know it's going to take some conditioning to start to trust that my new back is strong and capable.

    But the soreness I hear. I am pretty sure when they give us the long-term heal rates, they mean it's going to be uncomfortable for months. I mean, Lisa- you and I still have to build bone to replace an entire vertebrae, that's not going to come at no cost to our bodies.

    Failure isn't an option, but we're not there yet. It's still the process.

    I was able to go out and hang with friends last night for a few hours, that was fun :) I got to shock people with my grisly battle wounds and then park on the couch and chit chat all night- it was still exhausting!
  • Hi HB -

    They actually did not remove my vertabra! My surgery was less invasive then they thought . My pain has has been great! But I'm worried about it coming back. So, here's to 2011 and thinking positive..

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