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Thoracic Fusion

HeatherEliseHHeatherElise Posts: 19
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:51 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
I've done a lot of searching but I finally broke down to registering and posting.

In Aug 2008 I was in a car accident and I fractured C5, C6, T8, T9, and T10. Most were minor fractures except T9 was a burst fracture. I was also 5 weeks pregnant so surgery was not done. I spent 14 weeks in a hard brace at all times unless I was laying flat. That Dec an MRI showed that T9 was collapsing in the front into a wedge shape. The following year (Nov 09) another MRI showed an increase in the kyphosis. My neurosurgeon at the time said surgery was not an option as it was 'experimental' and my insurance probably wouldn't cover it. I am in pain most of the time, though not crippling pain.

This past summer we moved and the pain suddenly increased. My daughter is now 1.5 and about 30 pounds. Picking her up hurts and I have never been able to sit on the floor and play with her. I'm 29 and I feel like I'm trapped in the body of an old woman. They kyphosis gives me a visible hump in my back. The increase in pain sent me to a new neurosurgeon (actually 3 of them until I finally found the right one). We had a new CT done and he suggested 2 surgical options. One, an anterior approach where T9 and T10 would be replaced with titanium cylinders and then a posterior fusion. The doc says this will straighten my spine and should git rid of most of my pain. The second option is just a posterior approach for a fusion. The doc can't get my spine completely straight but he thinks it will still fix most of my pain issues.

So now I have a decision to make, surgery or not? And which surgery? My husband and I want to have more kids so we're leaning towards surgery so I can be more active in their lives. The doc said it would be a 6 level fusion (T7-T12). He said I should expect to do nothing for about a month, but he seemed fairly optomistic about recovery. Has anyone had this type of surgery? We're currently leaning towards the 2nd option, as the thoracotomy required for an anterior approach scares me.
I apologize for the ridiculously long post.


  • Hi and welcome to Spine Health
    I'm very sorry for the position you are in.
    I've had cervical fusions and lumbar fusions, but never a thoracic fusion. But there are people here who have, so be patient and they will find your post and respond.

    Being your age and you and husband wanting more kid's is one thing to consider, and your health, and the chances for a positive outcome is another.
    Make sure you do your homework and stay with the NS you are most comfortable with.

    A 6 level fusion is humangous(spelling), and expect a extremely long recovery.
    But the end result is what matter's most.

    Only you and your husband can make that decision, so the best of luck to you.
    And feel free to vent anytime you need too, as someone is always here to listen, talk, and try to comfort.

    I believe you will be happy you posted here as most here can relate to the pain and emotions involved.
  • Thanks, I'm hoping specifically to talk to someone who has had a posterior thoracic fusion, since I've read the really great posts from the lady who had the anterior one. The pictures of her incision made me realize how serious a surgery it was.
  • I had a fusion done at T-11 and T-12 about 8 weeks ago. My doctor went in through the left side using the XLIF approach. They made about a six inch incision and had to deflate the left lung to get to the area to be fused. They replaced T-11 with an artificial wedge and put the cage around it. I spent 5 days in the hospital due to a drain tube to let the air escape from the lung being collapsed. It sounds scary but I was up and walking the second day although slowly. It was hard to breathe for a few days due to the lung. I stayed pretty medicated for about three weeks (10-325 Hydrocodon)but I am back to work and my back itself feels great. The left side where they went in is still bothersome from time to time but manageable. There is numbness on the surface of the skin on the left side due to the nerves but this is an expected occurrence and can take a few months for the nerves to settle. I have to where a soft brace anytime I am up and about until my next followup on April 25th. I would say so far it was worth it to do the surgery.
  • I had a major burst fracture of my T8 after an accident and had surgery about 2 weeks ago. I had the 2 surgeries the first going in from the front (anterior) the second from the back. because of the location of T8, they had to remove a rib and deflate my left lung to get access to the bone and since like you, I did not have surgery right away, they had to remove the broken pieces that had started to heal back together and straighten my spine back up. They used my rib for the bone graf and placed a spacer and gage around the bone. Then the next day they went in through the back and added rods for the fusion support.

    It is no small deal. Because of the two surgeries I was in ICU for 4 days and 8 days in the hospital. I am 2 weeks out and still have a hard time getting around and I still take the pain meds on a regular basis, just to be able to rest.

    Like you I also have a small child, mine is 3, and it is really tough trying to take care of her. But I am confident that in the end I will be strong enough to play with her again and hopefully have another baby next year.

    Hope this helps.
  • Thanks Trujibri and Tiffany, its good to hear some positive stories about this type of surgery. I decided to go with the posterior approach only, because I'd heard such bad things about the thoracotomy and that recovery. My doc seems pretty sure that this less invasive surgery will still fix most/all of my pain, I'll just still have a bit of a crooked back. Tiffany, I'm curious to see how long it takes before you're more or less functional, let me know!
  • Functional is a matter of interpretation, but I am getting pretty self sufficient now. I am about 2 1/2 weeks out and I can basically take care of my 3 year old, but it is still pretty difficult due to pain and limited motion. I can cook basic food, get her dressed, give her a bath, play board games and read to her. What I still need help with is driving, since I am on pain pills, and getting her in her car seat since my car is small and you have to really bend down and into the car to buckle it up. I can do it if I have to, but it hurts.

    One thing I have been doing when I go out is get those scooters they have. I did a trip to Costco using one of those and it helped. I also took her to Legoland after my accident and rented one and it worked well. She got a change to be a normal kid, and I didn't have to try and walk all day.

    Good luck on your surgery and I will let you know when I am back to normal so you can get an idea of the time. Dr said another 3 months before I am back to work if that is an indication.
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