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ALIF/360 Surgery Scars

modc30mmodc30 Posts: 8
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:49 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I was just wondering what type of scars people had after the ALIF/360 surgery. The surgeon says the anterior part will look much like a hysterectomy scar but he hasn't said much about my back. I was just wondering what some of you guys had experienced in the scar department.

I am a 33 yr old female w/herniations at L4/L5 and L5/S1 from working on an ambulance. I fought surgery for 4 years and tried everything for pain management including multiple epidural/cortisone injections, oral pain medications and PT. My last round of epidurals and cortisone lasted 2 months and was comprised of 10 different injections. I decided that, after 4 years of injections, I couldn't keep pumping my body full of these drugs and I gave in to surgery. My surgeon is an orthopedic surgeon specializing in spinal surgery. He has told me I will be having the ALIF surgery and that he will also be going through the back to put in the screws--I haven't found the terminology, but I think that's the 360 surgery. I am currently waiting for Worker's Comp approval for my surgery. My surgeon has already gone over the technicalities of it with me and I've done some research on my own. The one thing I can't find any information about is probably the vainest thing possible!

I knew going into this it was a major surgery, but after reading some of these posts I'm starting to get a little scared. Its good to know that there are other people out there who have experienced the surgery and are willing to share their stories.
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Comments

  • I have one 5" long below my belly button, and 2 5"long on each side of my spine. I'm pretty sure the only thing that will hide them is clothes. Quite frankly, that's at the bottom of my list of things I was and am worried about after the fusion. I take that back, it wasn't even on it. Keep doing your research, and you too will find alot more things to worry about with fusion than the size of the scars.
  • Thank you! I know scars aren't important, I was just wondering what they looked like. I'm more worried about the recovery than the scars.
  • To give you an idea of what the scars should look like, my wife and I both look like we had C sections, but I have 2 more on my back to. After the pain of the last 3.5 years, I hope they are enough of a reminder to be careful with my back for the rest of my life. It took a month before I quit wearing my pajamas all day hiked up to my chest so they wouldn't touch the scars, but now I can rub the scars and wear pants and a belt with no problems.

    I was hurting the day I last posted to you, and I'm sorry about being so blunt in the post. But if it gives you any relief, the doctor glued my scars shut and the terapist said it should become very faint and that I will never have the zipper look like so many of these scars end up after surgery. Something to ask your doc about if you are worried about the look of the scar.
  • To give you an idea of what the scars should look like, my wife and I both look like we had C sections, but I have 2 more on my back to. After the pain of the last 3.5 years, I hope they are enough of a reminder to be careful with my back for the rest of my life. It took a month before I quit wearing my pajamas all day hiked up to my chest so they wouldn't touch the scars, but now I can rub the scars and wear pants and a belt with no problems.

    I was hurting the day I last posted to you, and I'm sorry about being so blunt in the post. But if it gives you any relief, the doctor glued my scars shut and the terapist said it should become very faint and that I will never have the zipper look like so many of these scars end up after surgery. Something to ask your doc about if you are worried about the look of the scar.
  • With both the Workers Comp and the Surgery! I was going to have an alif but they had to stop it due to bleeding risk and go to a PLIF - so I have a 5 inch scar running horizontally to the left of and under my belly button. I have four incisions in my back - 2 in the lower back on either side of my spine that are about 5 inches vertically and two inch long vertical ones higher on my back. The incisions are healing nicely and I am rubbing them with vitamin E oil but I will certainly have scars. You are right to be concerned about the recovery, it is rough but I am slowly getting better after about 4 1/2 weeks and I don't see anything strange at all about a 33 year old woman being worried about scars. I am a 51 year old Grandma so I find them less worrisome:)
    Patti
  • Your scars also depend on if the surgeon uses staples, sutures or glue to close the incisions. It also depends on how the hardware is placed in your back. There are different ways to place the hardware. My surgeon used a Sextant system in which I have 8 - 1" incisions where he used punctures to place the screws and rods. Those were closed using glue and my front incision was closed with staples.

    I'm four years post op and you really have to be looking for the incisions to see them. They aren't as bad as I thought they would be.
    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • hi guys! Quick question my back pain is gone and the incision in the front and back do not hurt.

    My problem is pain, dull continuous pain more like spasms on my left buttock. It hurts to turn in bed, getting in and of the car. It hurts all the time. The pain rotates to the front of my hip.

    Is this just part of recovery?????
  • I complained to the doc jan.6 of pains in my butt and hips, but that the back was a dull ache. He put me in therapy for stretching and the first session took the burning and aching out of my butt and hips immediately. I don't recommend stretching unless a therapist or doc shows you how though. Kevin
  • You guys are awesome! Weaveman, I totally understand being in pain and now worries. =) I do hope you are feeling better!! I figure, if I want to get really really vain about it, I can always hide my scars in a tattoo...although, that might have to be a large tattoo!! But its a good excuse to add to the growing collection.

    Back surgery scares me and I fought the Dr for 4 years. My biggest concern really is recovery. I'm not an extreme sports enthusiast or anything, I just want my life back. I also need to get back to work. I am a 911 dispatcher now, so at least it isn't a very physical job! The chronic back pain really does take a lot out of you and I don't think that anyone who hasn't experienced it really understands. Its so nice to have people who are going through or went through the same thing I am going through. =)

    For those of you who have already braved the surgery, any words of wisdom?

    preese, vitamin E oil is a great idea! I might steal that!
    bebe_pain, hope you are doing better!!!
  • Be sure to ask your doctor when it's okay to start using oils and scar creames. If you start too soon, you run the risk of infection.

    You will most likely have weird pains for a while after surgery. I had different spasms and numb areas along my legs for nearly six months after surgery. I'm still numb to this day along both sides of my abdomen scar from ALIF.

    Keith
    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • About not doing anything without approval from the Doc or therapist. I have been in Physical Therapy since 2 weeks after my alif/plif and am glad of it because I had terrible muscle spasms in my back. I am just over 5 weeks post fusion and my left buttocks and hip and leg have alot of burning pain which is worse than the pain I had before surgery, but the back pain has settled down to an ache that I can tolerate.
    Patti
  • It's not uncommon to continue taking muscle spasm medication for a while after surgery. Your body is making some serious adjustments to a new structure.

    TENS unit can help some as can sitting in a hot tub. a warm/hot swimming (therapy) pool feels like heaven as well!

    Keith
    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • Yes, the meds are a whole issue in and of itself. As a former paramedic I am super concerned about becoming addictive to them. I am on, what I consider, a lot of narcotics. My friend, who had back surgery in Nov, was taking what I am taking now AFTER he had surgery. Currently I am supposed to take 10 mgs percocet w/325 mgs tylenol and 350 mgs of soma 3 times a day. I try so hard to take them only once a day or twice at most. I am aware enough to know when I start getting depressed or sad I stop the meds all together for a few days, which sucks SO bad!!

    I've been on some type of oral medication for the last 4 years, are those of you who are 1-2 yrs post op still taking meds everyday or just as needed??

    Also, how long do you estimate you needed pain meds (incl spasm meds) after the surgery??

    EMSGuy, you and I probably had our injuries caused the same way. I had a bonehead (trainee) not work the mechanism right and he "dropped" a Stryker gurney on me from all the way at the top down about 6 clicks down. I am 5'0" tall and was at the head. We had a 250 lb patient on the gurney and she was curled up into a ball, so most of her weight was toward the front of the gurney. The Fire Dept who was on the call with us knew I was in bad shape and luckily so did my partner.
  • Your partner needs their butt kicked!!

    I blew out L4-S1 giving a National Registry Exam of all things! But, my surgeon said years of wear and tear finally caused it to go with a pretty routine movement.

    My medications are PRN. I do have Lortab for when I am uncomfortable. I don't think I'll fully be pain medication free. I would like to be, but realistically, it isn't going to happen.

    Right after surgery, I noticed my pain level wasn't real bad, so I called my surgeon and asked him to lower my medication from where it was. You are spot on about recognizing when you may begin to have a problem. I found myself taking the medicine because I was supposed to versus really needing it.

    I'm sure you've transported a fair share of drug seekers. Most people in healthcare never wants to become "that guy". I applaud you for recognizing that you needed to step back, even though it causes you more pain. BUT, keep in mind that there is a difference in being addicted/dependent to a medication versus abusing a medication. Many people become dependent on a medication at no fault of their own. They have a legitimate medical problem which causes them to take medication. I don't even need to speak about the abusers. They make life difficult on everyone who is legitimate.

    Make sure your employer knows what medications you're taking if your still able to work! Last thing you need is to have a patient claim their medication is missing and you have the same medication in your system.

    Cheers!

    Keith

    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • I am @ 1 year out from a L4-S1 360 fusion. I am still taking meds for pain. It did not reduce my back pain by much compared to before my operation. I knew this was a possibility before surgery. My surgeon had been honest in that my pain level might not decrease, but I was also having problems with my left leg and foot. I felt that I was going to fall because of the lack of feeling in my left foot and leg. In my last MRI before surgery you could see the nerve compression, so the surgeon felt confident that he could resolve the issues w/ my leg and foot. After my operation the surgeon also said my disks where in worse shape than he thought from looking at the MRI.

    As for the scars, I am happy with my back incision. It healed nicely. I would even say it is not that noticeable. The scar on the front is not so nice. It messed up my cute little pot belly. The front incision left a pink/off color scar that would be hard to not notice. I had staples on both incisions. Both scars are at least 6 inches long. I noticed that the back scar was straighter and tighter than the front. If I hadn't found all this extra weight since my surgery, I think my front would look better. I have picts of my scars right after surgery. If you want to see them, drop me a PM. I not too shy to let you see them.

    I don't want to scare you out of your surgery. I am happy with what I achieved, but I did hope for more pain relief. I had gotten to the point I was willing to try anything to alleviate any aspect of my spinal problems. I am back to working a quite physical job, and trying to do as much as I can everyday to have the fullest life possible. Life is different after spinal surgery. And, yes, you can take that last statement a few ways. :)

    Wishing the best.
    -norm
  • Did you feel like you had to relearn how to walk/move/run etc..post surgery? Right now, I feel like my hips and pelvis are out of line and compensating for the back injury. I wondered if things "fall" back into line so to speak.

    Kevin aka EMS Guy: I 100% absolutely agree with you about the seekers vs the accidentally addicted. I told my Pain Doc from the get go that I didn't want to take a lot of meds. My herniation is on the right side of my spine, but I have had left sided issues since the injury in 2006. I have left hip pain, left leg numbness, left leg weakness. It wasn't until recently that I started to notice a right sided deficit. I had a spinal nerve block done on my L5 nerve on the left side to rule out any other type of problem that wasn't showing up on MRI or X-Ray. That hurt so bad that my pain Doc had to give me 6 mgs of Morphine before I would let go of the hand rails. He then increased my perco to the 10 mgs and kept me on the soma (been on that for 4 yrs). So that's where I am now.

    Norm aka factoryrat: I don't expect surgery to be a miracle (unfortnately!). I am like you, I'm tired of the leg numbness, pain and weakness. I'm glad to hear that you are healing and doing well!! I feel like my life has stopped waiting for surgery. Its actually kind of depressing because I had to cancel vacation plans and everything. =( (boohoo huh?) I feel like if I can control the leg/hip/pelvis problems then I can handle back pain. I guess I'll find out soon.

    Thanks!
  • It did feel like I needed to learn how to walk again after surgery. I think it's a matter that your spine structure has changed and therefore your muscles and brain for that matter need to get used to the change. Plus, most people walk with a stable spine. Right after fusion, there is no disk in there so the feeling is different until you actually fuse solid. At least for me it felt different. Right after surgey I didn't feel stable even with new hardware in my back. After a couple months, things got a bit better.

    Keith
    Several Epidurals, L4-S1 360 ALIF, Numerous Facet Joint Injections, RFA x2
  • Don't forget that you lose a lot of muscle strength during surgery! Besides the muscles that are cut, the rest of the muscles atrophy from non-use.

    I still can't run up my stairs 5 weeks out, although I keep trying ;)

    By the way my thoracotomy scar is about 12" right down my side. My plate scar is only about 4-5" down the middle of my spine, from L1-L3. Thoracotomy scars are notorious for pain, but my PT has been working with it and it's feeling a lot better!
  • Hi modc30, I am wondering how your scar is. I am scheduled for ALIF front and back for L5/S1and also (vainly) wondering about the scar in front. How did yours turn out? It is difficult to find much online.

  • SavageSavage United StatesPosts: 5,940
    edited 01/11/2016 - 5:30 AM
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  • This is it ! The post I have been looking for :D  My ALIF/360  is coming up in 3 weeks, and as a 56 y/o triathlete, I was worried about  the Anterior incision.  I had a PLIF in 2013 and couldn't care about  the incisions. I had a 3 level ACDF in 2014 and still couldn't care about the incisions. Now what concerns me is where and how big will the Anterior incision be ? I have worked too hard all these years to look as good as I do, to have a surgeon leave a big scar.  4 Level coming up. No, I am not vain, just work hard.

    JoAnn




    2013    PLIF  L4/L5
    2014   3 Level ACDF

    "Life is Short, Play with your dog...." WOOF"
  • Hi Joann
    I just saw yr post as I was looking for advice on my scar. I hopeyou had a successful surgery 
    I had an ALIF on L5/S1in April. Just told by my physio in 1st session (8 weeks post op) that I should have been massaging scar before now as it's thick and ropey. Did Google and found a utube video showing how to do it. Feels very tender now so probably overdid it! Good luck.
    Anne 
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