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Any successful surgeries around?

saravanraaltessaravanraalte Posts: 4
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:50 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I am scheduled for back surgery (L4-5, S1) next week and am very scared.
The articles and postings I read about unsuccessful surgeries are so depressing.
That would really lift me up!


  • I am posting a link to the early days after my surgery back in March last year. There is a lot of friendly chat amongst it, but you can get the idea of how my recovery went.


    10 months down the line, I am so much better than before my surgery. I was having very severe pain and, although I do still have some pain and symptoms, mostly in my feet and legs, I am very much better than before my surgery. I would definately do it again, despite several problems and complications.

    I am having problems in my neck and thoracic spine, which I am sure is nothing to do with my surgery. I just have a 'grotty spine'!

    Over the months of my posting here, I have met and befriended lots of people who have travelled the same road alongside me. I have seen them move along from pain, to surgery, to difficult recovery, to great improvement and now they have left the road, travelling another route and back to their lives.

    The people who have experienced successful spinal surgery, in the most part, do not post much again. They are too busy back to their usual lives, not giving us much of a thought. The people who are still here, are people who have other problems, or sadly whose stories are not so good.

    Welcome to Spine Health. :H
    What surgery are you having next week?
    I hope that you will be posting that the anticipation was worse than the surgery. (There are a lot of us who can.)

    Keep posting and asking questions. This site is an amazing support during your recovery.
    Looking forward to getting to know you better. :-)

  • Hi there!

    I was TERRIFIED before my surgery.

    I put it off for oaver 2 years - until I started having symptoms of CES (yuck).

    Anyway - I am 2.5 years post-op from a S1-L4 fusion and doing GREAT!

    I have had plenty of complications and it's been a long road, but I am SO much better off now than I was before. I had to have 2 surgeries, stayed in the hospital 9 days, my right leg went mostly numb (and a lot of it is still numb). And I had to have my hardware removed about a year ago. It's been a long road.

    But - Now I can MOVE without SEVERE MASSIVE pain shooting like lightning strikes down my leg. I actually have days that my back does not hurt at all!

    I have not taken medication (except some occasional tylenol) for about a year now.

    Some things that I think helped me in my recovery:

    I am very anti-medication. I was off it as soon as possible - 3 weeks until I was off the regular stuff, 3 months for the occasional muscle relaxant, almost 2 years before I stopped taking Tylenol PM regularly to get past the pain enough to fall asleep.

    I have lost 40 lbs since my surgery. You really pack it on before and right after when you can't move much. I excercise and stretch regularly now, it helps with the aches.

    Good luck, I don't wish back surgery on anyone. It's such a gamble. I feel very very lucky to be where I am today.
  • I had my first 2 level fusion in Dec 2008. I had three discs that had tears in them, one not bad. So I gambled and tried to get by with only 2 levels. The fusion healed beautiful, but I had the one level go out along with another. So in Dec of 2010 I had my 2nd fusion. I am doing well. Almost off of pain meds. I have been walking straight, going shopping for more than 1/2 hour. Life is getting lots better. If I would have had all three levels done in 2008, I might have avoided the 2nd surgery. But maybe not.
    It is a long road, but just do everything your Dr tells you. I have been suffering from severe back pain for almost 5 years. I was on the largest Fentanyl patch for pain plus break through oxycdone every 4 hrs. Now I am almost off all of it, I just have to wean off of it slowly because of how long I have been on it.
    I had my 6 week check up and am already fusing. It can work, and it is for me so far. Good Luck. I am no regretting my surgery, cause I am finally getting my life back.
  • Thank you for sharing your stories with me. Without knowing you I feel connected with you.

    I don't know if you recognize this, but I don't feel like talking to anyone who hasn't got the same problem. The others make me so tired ith their advice.

    I decided yesterday; Come on, getting into your car is also a big risk, and you don't even think about it. Saltzworks, your history is proof of that. Lately I have been driving more slowly because I was getting too many tickets. I never thought about driving more slowly because of my spine.

    Love and strength to all of you,

  • I just had my L4 and L5 worked on my neurosurgeon put replacement disks in there and put a cage around it. I had my L3 disk worked on 5 years ago it was a workman's comp thing so I had to use the doctor from there list well he seen my L4 disk herniating but chose not to do anything and now I had to go through all this crap again my L4 L5 and S1 a couple years later i found out he was an orthopedic surgeon and man was he an idiot well I had dang good insurance this time so I was able to choose my own doctor and he was very very Highly recommended now they want to put me on this thing called a bone growth stimulator anybody know what this is and does it have good results. Its been three weeks now since the surgery and still have pain down by right leg a good bit and still having to take pain meds will this stimulator help with the pain to?
  • I came to this forum 5 years ago for help - and I found lots of it. I have had a ALIF and PLIF for the same L5-S1 area. The 2nd surgery I could tell almost immediately that it helped! I am not perfect, but I doubt I was before surgery anyway :))(

    I also had a double fusion lower neck - while much scarier for me - also very successful. If you trust your doctors - let some worry fall from your shoulders. Recovery isn't great but neither was the pain before surgery.

    Good luck and keep posting updates.
  • I am doing ok for now. Pain free and going about my life in a modified way (no heavy lifting, sports, high-impact activities).

    Many say surgery is bad. Comments like that worsened my pre-op fear. However, surgery gave me my life back. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Nowadays, I am...... HAPPY!

    I hope you get relief from the procedure and get to feeling well again.

    BTW, this site used to be very populated and heavily visited. It's pretty quiet nowadays, not sure why. I've been around for a few years and just a few regulars remain.

    On the sunny and mild Central Coast of California

    L4-L5 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy June, 2007
    L5-S1 endoscopic transforaminal microdiscectomy May, 2008
  • My surgery also gave me my life back. I too am limited in what I can do as far as lifting, twisting, etc., but I can walk, I can sit, I can stand, and I am pretty much without pain. Compared to the agony I suffered before surgery, I'd have to say my life is excellent.

    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • I also consider my surgery a huge success. Before the surgery the vertabra slipping cut off circulation to my legs which caused me to need a walker. I was in severe pain all the time and barely functioning.

    I do have very limited range of motion from the extensive fusion but I would not trade it for anything. I can walk again.

    Life is good.
    4 level posterolateral fusion L2-S1 with rods and screws and cadaver bone. Spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, sciatica, DDD, facet disease and arthritis. September 2002
  • Yo Sara, a couple of things to remember: there are over 400,000 Spinal fusions done in the US every year. They can't all be failures. Like someone else said, the reason you hear about the failures is because those people are still hurting and looking for some kind of help, advice and/or pain relief. The successes hae moved on with their lives, so you don't hear from them so much.

    I am 3 weeks out from a L5-S1 Fusion [PLIF] and decompression with instrumentation. My sciatic pain and parasthesia are gone. I was off the daytime post-op pain meds 7 days out. Right now I pop a couple of Vicodin (7.5-325) at night because of some roving achiness, but that is less and less. And I'm walking 2 miles a day (in 1/4 mile intervals)I'm 56.

    I didn't wait to have mine done. I've had the spondy condition for 18 years. It only started acting up (sciatica) in June 2010. Did the PT and epidurals. Neurosurgeon insisted I try the conservative route first, but even he admitted that I might eventually need surgery.

    I asked him how I would know when it was time to opt for surgery. His answer: "When you get tired of the pain."

    Got some short term releif, but I refused to do any pain management drugs. That's just a band-aid solution for a problem that I knew the PLIF would help. I did a lot of reading and research on the procedure, weeks and weeks of online reading, went to the NS twice more to ask dozens of questions. Actually got to talk to several of his patients who had the same procedure done on the same vertebrae.

    Then the pain got so bad in one day that I couldn't even stand, much less walk. It finally subsided (a temporary respite--- I knew it would return soon), and I saw the NS the next week.

    There were 3 sentences spoke in that visit;

    NS: "So what are you here for today?"
    Me: "I want you to do the surgery."
    NS: "I'll get the papers."

    So far, recovery is according to plan.
    Due to see the NS in 10 days to assess the fusion. I hope it's fusing!

    Some serious advice for anyone considering back surgery:

    1) If you smoke, stop smoking NOW.
    2) If you're weight is good but you are out of shape, get in shape. You will be using your quads and triceps a lot during recovery.
    3) If you are overweight and out of shape, LOSE THE WEIGHT. That is your carcase you will be lifting in and out of bed and chairs multiple times a day, and fat is dead weight.

    I never smoked and was at a good weight and in shape when I had the surgery done. It has made a world of difference in my recovery, compared to what I have read of others' experience. And it also helped because I live alone. Except for the first 6 days post-op when a relative stayed with me, i have been on my own. No help with anything except watering my plants and putting the trash can out, for which I enlist neighborhood kids.

  • Hi,

    I didn't read all the responses but wanted to post.
    First, being scared is good. Use it to make sure you understand the risks and other options. Being prepared for the risks can scare you more but they keep you educated and informed. As a patient, we have to be our own advocate. So in a way, your fear can also be your strength.

    As for success stories, remember many of the success stories are out living their lives.

    I would say I'm a 'partial' success still progressing to success. My first surgery failed but my 2nd (revision microdiscectomy) was considered a success. It took me 6 months to agree with this b/c the changes were slow. As a matter of fact other people noticed it faster than I did. I'm a year out from my 2nd microD and I have a lot of my life back.

    Things changed and I know I cannot run anymore but this past fall I started hiking again, I go on 3 mile walks, I can walk my own dog and if she pulls a little I don't hurt, I am just starting cardio, and I can get through a work day and still have energy to walk on the treadmill. I won't say I'm pain free and I still have numbness but I will tell you I've regained a good portion of my independence back.

    I'm smart and always carry a phone, I don't lift heavy things, I no longer help shovel when it snows, but I dont' worry going to the store thinking I will be in pain just grocery shopping. I consider myself a successful patient...who has learned the value of patience with my back.
  • My surgery was successful! Of course, everyone has a different definition of "successful." I am only 8 weeks post and still am rehabilitating, and there is still pain. But I am *much* better than before surgery.

    I will say that recovery is a long haul, and surgery was brutal. Now that I've been there, I'd tell any friend considering it to make sure to get multiple opinions to be sure that they have a very good probability of success. I was told before surgery that recovery would be 6-8 months and I am sure it will take every bit of that! Additionally, I will have some level of pain forever just due to the surgery. It just will be much less than the pain before!

    Good luck with your surgery! I think it's definitely smart to take into account the negatives of surgery along with the positives. But if your doctor is assuring you that you are an excellent surgical candidate, and you trust your doctor, then remind yourself that people who have successful surgeries are much less likely to be complaining on the internet!
  • Sara:

    I have lived with chronic low back pain for 30 years. Had episodes of herniations on occasion because of a grade 1 spondololythesis and DDD. More than one surgeon recommended fusion, but I put it off and lived with it. Finally, during the Christmas holidays, I realized that I could not face 2011 in the same sorry, painful condition so I opted for surgery.

    I had L4-L5 and L5-S1 fused on January 21. I was walking in the hospital the next day (very slowly). Remained there for 3 days and then sent to the house. I am one of those who has realized immediate improvement. No complications during or since the surgery. Wish I had done this years ago.

    However, this is what I have learned along the way. Conservative treatments should be attempted first. Always get second opinions. As best you can, get yourself physically prepared prior to surgery. Keep your eye on the prize and know that the surgical pain is temporary (has been for me). And lastly, each of us is different. We have different pain tolerances and our outcomes will also be unique. For example, my surgeon attempted a minimally invasive surgery but had to cut me deeper and longer because my bones were fairly gnarly and the xray/MRI did not reveal the whole story. Didn't matter because he did a superb job. Each of us is different. There comes a time when you just have to let go and let the surgeon and the Lord fix you. As I was driving to my pre sugery anesthesia consult I kept listening to AC/DC sing "Pull the Trigger." It gave me some additional courage.

    Good luck.

    Jim (used to be a 59 year old grumpy old man; no longer grumpy because I got my back fixed)
  • I agree with Jim. I have fought pain for almost 5 years. It is my 2nd fusion, and now I am finally feeling great. Love my life, let go and let God. It is amazing how it helps to have a positive attitude and a great surgeon!
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